Monthly Archives: September 2011

1 John 3:16-24 – Know; September 29, 2011

1 John 3:16-24 – Know


There have been multiple times in my life when I’ve felt absolutely overwhelmed.  My first full-time job out of college working as a school administrator, teacher, and coach and having no real experience in any area other than coaching.  Getting married.  Moving to a foreign country.  The birth of our first child.  My first job in a church.  I can distinctly remember feeling an overbearing weight of inadequacy in each one of those moments.  And the root of that inadequacy was found in my lack of knowledge in that given situation.  There was no real foundation that I could stand on in order to feel secure in any of those experiences.  I had nothing to fall back on, and I learned very quickly that my ability to gather information about a subject was not the same as knowing about it firsthand.  No matter how many classes you take or books you read on teaching, there is nothing that can prepare you for standing in front of a group of students every week and being responsible for their education.  There is no true amount of preparation that can assist you in coping with flying 19 hours on an airplane, landing on foreign soil, arriving at your new apartment, and realizing your not going “home” for a while.  And you can forget about how ready you think you are for marriage or kids until you’re waking up to that person everyday and that little life is now waking you in the middle of the night.  Some things you just don’t know until you’ve actually walked up to them and been introduced – until you’ve stared it in the face and lived it.  That is what John is trying to get across to us in this passage.

John is in no way covering new ground in chapter 3 of his letter.  He is simply trying to get across that we can’t simply have a cognitive knowledge of love, truth, abiding or the Spirit, we must have experienced them and been changed by them.  No one who has had a true encounter with the love of Christ will ever be able to remain in a constant state of anger or prejudice.  No one who has acknowledged the source of all truth will be able to continue believing the lies of his own heart for long.  And no one can deny the need for abiding after they have been filled with the presence of God.  John is inviting us to participate in the beauties of our faith, not just talk about them or discuss them.  He is calling us to engage.

The sad part is that John knows way to many who will refuse the invitation.  They don’t want to go deeper, they don’t want to feel heat of the refiners fire.  They simply want to talk about it, analyze it and speak critically about it.  They want to play spiritual dodgeball – they can’t deny the realities of love, truth, and abiding that infiltrate life, but they don’t want to touch them, handle them, or get smacked in the face by them.  They are content to bob-and-weave through life hoping they don’t “catch” what some of us have.  You find as many of these in church as you do out of it – people who simply want to live their lives unaffected by the Gospel.

“By this we know love,” in that we have been loved by Christ.  But we cannot fully know the love of Christ until we have acknowledged how unworthy we are of such a love.  We prefer to think of the love of Christ as Him seeing our potential and loving us so that we could meet that potential.  That is why so many will miss knowing His love.  The point of the agape love of Christ is that we are so undeserving of it.  There is nothing good within us that causes Christ to love.  Instead it is out of the depth of His love that we – the undeserving – are loved.  This is why many will not understand the love that John talks about.  They believe that they have something in them that forces Christ to love them.  They want to make Christ’s love a phileo love – a love based on affection or feeling – and so want to treat others with a phileo love.

“By this we know that we are of the truth,” when our hearts begin to recognize and line up with His heart.  We miss this so often because we first refuse to love as Christ has loved, and second because we want to trust our own ability to define what is right and good.  We don’t want someone above us, watching us, calling us to account.  We want to make these actions bad and these actions good.  We don’t want to address our hearts or the hearts of others.  We simply want to engage in what we can control.  Christ’s love cuts to the heart of who we are, and so will His truth.

“By this we know that He abides in us,” when the Spirit bears fruit in our lives.  The love, truth and abiding nature of Christ will change us.  We will not be the same.  The Spirit will testify to the saving work of Christ in our lives by bearing His fruit in the way we live.  Christ’s love will flow forth based on the truth He has revealed as we begin to be patient in times that we were impatient before knowing Him.  Joy will be born in times of sorrow. Kindness will be born when there was only hostility.  Self-control will be born when there was addiction or over-indulgence.  The Spirit will confirm in our lives the work done as we submit to the love and truth of Christ.

There is no one on earth who can know these things on your behalf.  You can listen to as many preachers, read as many books, and attend as many Bible studies as you want, but they will never replace you knowing them for yourself.  Engage with Christ.  Come play.  Touch, see, and hear the beautiful reality of who Christ is.  Come allow the Spirit to bear fruit in your life.  Be a student of His Word by being more than just another intellect.  Live the Word.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,




1 John 3:11-15, Genesis 4:1-26 – Hate; September 21, 2011

1 John 3:11-15, Genesis 4:1-26 – Hate


I wanted to title this post “Love part 2,” but in looking at this text again to write this next part of the study in 1 John, it just didn’t seem to fit.  One of the beauties of the Apostle John’s writing style is that he will use similar themes and rehash them in order that we may understand the very weighty concepts that he is wanting his “little children” to understand.  John does mention love in this text but it is by no means his emphasis.  He, instead, wants to show us hate.  He wants us to look full on into the face of hate in our own hearts and see for ourselves whether we fall in the light or stumble in darkness.

The story of Cain and Abel is a story that you learn in Sunday School when you’re very young. I remember it being taught as a means of telling us not to be mean to our brothers and sisters or a lesson in obeying mommy and daddy so we don’t murder our siblings.  Either way, the point of the story is missed.  John, like his Teacher, is wanting us to examine the heart of Cain not his external actions.  When we read the account of Cain and Abel we see two things initially: Cain and Abel make sacrifices to God, Cain is rejected while Abel is accepted.

I’ve tried and tried to find a reason in the original text for why Cain was rejected and Abel wasn’t.  I kept remembering an old children’s cartoon that documented this account.  Cain was a gruff, caveman-like brute who brought a bunch of raggedy veggies to God and Able was this clean, handsome looking young man who brought a nice lamb to God.  It was easy to see why Cain was rejected and not Abel in the cartoon.  Cain was an ogre while Abel was an angel. Cain brought garbage while Abel brought the best he had.  The Bible makes no such distinction.  Other than Abel bringing the “firstborn” of his flock, there is no distinction between the two offerings.  And this was long before there were any laws laid down as to what was acceptable for sacrifices and what was not acceptable.

As with most of Scripture, we need a bit of help to figure out why Cain’s offering was not accepted by God.  God tells us a hint when He confronts Cain and asks the question “If you do well, will you not be accepted?”  Apparently Cain did not do well in the bringing of his offering.  But we know by looking at the rest of Scripture that it’s not the external, moral action that gives us right standing before God.  It is the condition of our hearts that gives us right standing.  It is not the bringing of the sacrifice that pleases God, but the brokenness of a heart seeking Him.

Here is how this translates for us.  Often when we’ve been trying so hard to do the right things, we neglect to come to God with humble hearts.  We believe that we are accepted by the things we do on the outside and not the position of our hearts on the inside.  Cain’s deeds were evil because his heart was not right, not because was doing immoral things.  Now as we finish the story of Cain and Abel, we know that Cain’s actions changed to match the evil in his heart.  His murdering of his brother was simply an overflow of what was in his heart.  His default heart position was against God.  Instead of reaching for love, he reached for hate.  Instead of reaching for patience, he reached for impatience.  Instead of allowing purification to take place in his life, he dove headlong into the sin that marked him for the rest of his life.

If the Spirit were to examine you, what would your default heart position be?  Do you reach for love or hate?  Kindness or spitefulness?  Humility or pride?  Spirit or flesh?  What’s your response when someone cuts you off on the road?  What’s your response when the waitress gets your order wrong at a restaurant?  What’s your response when a coworker, spouse, child or sibling rubs you the wrong way?  The Spirit is warning us that if we are not reaching for the things of God as our default, we may not have any part of Him at all.  I am not trying to imply that we will be perfect, and neither does John.  But we must be willing to see the truth of where we are in Him.  Are we trying to stand as close to Him as we can without having to do the work of sanctification that demands us to give up our rights?  Are we so lost in Him that our defaults are now based on Christ’s love for the person who may have hurt us or made our lives a bit inconvenienced?  Anger in the heart of a believer is committing murder when we are supposed to be carriers of Christ’s life to the world around us (2 Corinthians 4:10).  May we be faithful of being life-givers instead of life-takers.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,



1 John 3:4-10 – Lawlessness; September 14, 2011

1 John 3:4-10 – Lawlessness


I must admit something that may seem strange to some.  When I try to define or think of what lawlessness looks like I can’t help but picture a scene from a western movie where the outlaws run things.  There’s no order, there’s no peace, and everybody knows that there’s no law but no one is able to do anything about it.  Everyone, even the outlaws, knows that something is wrong; they just won’t do anything to fix it.  People simply survive.  The common folk go about their daily lives just trying not to get in the way while the outlaws explore every selfish depravity they can come up with.  There is a clear distinction between the outlaws and the common citizen.

I think, for the most part, this is probably how most of us will define lawlessness.  We’ll think of the bad guys we’ve seen in movies or heard about in the news.  We’ll imagine some fiend sitting in riches that he has accrued by theft or greed, and that to us will become what lawlessness looks like.  Few of us will look at our own lives and see lawlessness.  Few of us will acknowledge our need for Christ’s righteousness.

Lawlessness is not simply living outside of the law; it is living as if there is no law outside of what we invent for ourselves.  If we could be honest with ourselves, we tend to define for us what is good and right.  We will most often fall in line with whatever governing authorities have been put in place.  We’ll follow the speed limits to a reasonable extent.  We won’t steal, harm, or kill the people around us.  We will fall in line as it seems best to us.  After all, if we don’t follow these social norms we go to jail, and no one wants that.  But what about the other parts of our lives, the private thoughts and motivations, what law governs those?  Who decides what your motivation should be for obeying the laws of the land? What laws govern what kind of spouse, sibling, child, friend, and coworker you are?

The truth is that most of us see God’s commands like we see the laws handed down from our government.  They hang over us and keep us from doing the really bad stuff, and we follow them so we don’t go to Hell.  They keep us from doing the really bad stuff, but don’t really break through to our hearts.  We don’t allow God to command our heart because we believe one of the greatest lies in the history of the world: we are good people.  God has no right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t drink because it’s not like you’re killing someone.  God has no right to tell you what to do with your free time because it’s not like you’re dealing drugs or stealing from people.  God has no right to tell you to submit to your husband because your husband is an idiot.  God has no right to tell you to obey your parents because they are so out of touch and old-fashioned.

Most of us live lives of lawlessness.  We don’t allow the Lord to address the deep parts of our hearts that care nothing for Him or His Word.  We simply want to avoid the “big” sins that keep us out of Heaven.  What we fail to see so often is that when we refuse the regenerate work of the Spirit in our hearts, we refuse Christ all together.  We don’t get to simply pick the parts of the Spirit’s sanctifying work that we want and dismiss the ones that make us uncomfortable.  We don’t get to submit to the public modifications and refuse to submit to the private transformations that make us more like Christ.

The obedience that comes with a transformed heart is one of total obedience.   It means that every aspect of our lives is submitted to Him.  It means we discipline our lives down to the very thoughts we think during the day.  Abiding covers every part of who we are, down to the very private motivations that drive us to do what we do in our day.  It’s no longer good enough to simply follow the rules because you don’t want to get punished for being out of line.  We love the King and in loving Him follow Him.  We love Christ and in loving Him submit everything to Him.  Most of us miss this essential aspect of our relationship with Christ because we’ve had no other relationship in which we’ve experienced this type of obedience.  As we’re growing up we learn what behaviors our parents accept and which are not accepted.  We adjust our behavior so that our lives are more enjoyable depending on our level of selfishness.  Our motivation is our own comfort and survival, rarely is it the love of our parents.  As we get older this becomes more and more true.  Teenagers tend to obey their parents so that they don’t’ get yelled at or grounded, not because they have an overwhelming love and admiration for their parents.  Anyone who has been a teenager knows this.

As we graduate from the adolescent years we adjust our lives to the will of whatever government we are under.  Most of us will do whatever is necessary to not get arrested.  We do this not because we love our government, but for our own comfort and survival.  This is how we operate.  We adapt for our own comfort and survival, all the time our hearts being about what we want.  Our motivations are self-centered, self-exalting, and self-preserving.  This is how we come to God.  Most of us have been told or simply believed that God is calling us to a place of eternal comfort and that if we follow a certain set of behaviors we will forever be comfortable.  Our motivation for coming to Christ is rarely out of true, submissive love for Him.  Our motivation is usually for our comfort and eternal survival.  We live with the appearance of obedience, but lawlessness reigns in our hearts.  Our love for Him is shown by the smallest of things that is handed over to Him.  We walk with open hands, holding on to nothing in this life so that we may receive Him when this life is over.  He governs all things, that means there is nothing that we get to take for ourselves and say, “I’ll do this my way.”  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,



1 John 2:28-3:3 – Children; September 7, 2011

1 John 2:28-3:3 – Children


If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard someone reference “child of God” in a sermon or conversation, I’d be a very rich man.  It’s one of those clichés that gets thrown around in churches all the time, but few of us ever truly feel the weight of it.  We tend to think of it as if we were worldly kids and God is our parent.  The problem is not in the definition, but in the heart that often accompanies that definition.  Too often we love to play the role of the spoiled kid who has been given everything he or she wanted without discipline or correction.  We love to be “children of God” because that means we get to have whatever we want in this life with no need to feel guilty or responsible.  God will just take care of it and leave us to enjoy the peace and comfort in this life.  I’ve heard this text taught over and over again as a stand-alone sermon where the preacher wanted to make everyone feel good because they were “children of God.”  He wanted to puff them up and tickle their ears and let them know how much God loved them and wanted to give them peace and comfort in this life.  He’d go on to tell them how God wanted them healthy and wealthy because God takes care of His children.  Most of those sermons would end with me pacing the room and thanking God that I would most likely never meet that man in person.  I would probably not be a very good witness if I did.

John in his letter to the Church takes great care in developing a way of life that is very clearly distinctive from the rest of the world.  He discusses that not everyone who simply says they are of Christ is actually of Him.  He tells us that our lives will call us liars if we are not actively abiding in Him.  If we refuse to humble ourselves, to separate ourselves from the desires of this world, and to love each other we cannot in truth call ourselves children of God.  John is very clear that simply giving lip service to Christ does not equal adoption, just as doing moral things but never confessing Christ does not equal adoption.  There are clear and necessary evidences that accompany being called a son or daughter of God.

We have already discussed what John has discussed thus far in his letter, so in light of those things I will not rehash in this section what has already been discussed.  Let us instead rest for a moment in the love of our Father.  For those of you who are being sanctified – whose lives are in full pursuit of Christ and His glory – let us rejoice together in the grace and mercy of Christ.  In Christ we are seen as pure, holy, righteous, blameless and without sin.  To one who has been called into fellowship with the Father there is no greater gift that can be given.  There is no amount of comfort in this life that we feel we are owed outside of this one grace.  We who are true children, adopted by the saving work of the Lamb, now stand before our Heavenly Father ready to receive all that He has prepared for us.

For a child of the King there is nothing that can challenge or diminish the single purifying act of the Cross.  There is no trial that can shake us, no storm that can uproot us, no temptation that can overcome us.  We no longer have to fill our minds with what we want, but are able to joyfully and gladly look to the interests of others.  We are detached from the need to follow the world and its pursuits.  We no longer look to our own abilities or talents to provide for our needs, but trust that our Father will provide.  What a freeing thing it is to be a child of God.  What a joyful state in which to live where our external circumstances no longer define our understanding of God’s love for us.  What peace has been given when we can stand with Job and truly say “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Rejoice, child of God, for your inheritance is not rooted in the desires of this decaying world.  Rejoice, sons and daughters of the Most High, for your joy does not rest in what you can acquire and achieve, but in what He has had from the beginning.  May it be that we can learn to walk in holiness as children of God, forsaking our former ways and pursuing Him with our whole hearts.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,



1 John 2:18-27, John 15:1-17 – Abide; August 31, 2011

1 John 2:18-27, John 15:1-17 – Abide


The Apostle John has always been one of my favorite Biblical authors to read because of the Spirit’s unique voice through him.  John returns to themes from his gospel in his letters and allows us to connect thoughts from Christ into our lives as they apply to trials and temptations.  A recurring thought for John that he expounds in this letter is that of abiding.

Abiding is one of those spiritual disciplines that is shrouded from our rational minds.  It cannot be truly defined on a whole.  It has no clear-cut rules or regulations.  A lot of that stems from the fact that my place of abiding looks differently than your place of abiding.  For some, abiding means no drinking of alcohol, no “R” rated movies, and no work on Sundays.  Someone else’s abiding might all them a Sabbath on Friday, a beer on Tuesday, and the occasional, tasteful “R” rated film with friends.

Other more spiritual disciplines may also look differently for individual abiders.  One person’s quiet time might consist of reading a chapter, writing for a bit and praying through a list of people and situations that the Lord has placed on their heart.  Another person’s quiet time might consist of reading for 45 minutes and trying to pray in different places throughout the day.  Singing praises will also look differently in different people.  Some like loud music with a full band while others like a piano and a hymnal.  Some lift their hands and sway a bit, some sit quietly humming the tune, some stand rigidly throughout, and still others dance in the isles, all expressing their praise to God as a part of their abiding in Him.

I must admit that all of these things can be misunderstood and even abused by people trying to acquire abiding without truly seeking to know God.  Some people are lazy and refuse to make time to read more than a chapter at a time when they should really be reading more.  Some people pride themselves on how much they can read at one time but never allow what they read to affect them.  Some dance or sing loudly in church to get attention or to refuse social norms.  This is what I mean by the fact that there is no clear definition for what it looks like to abide in Him.

The biggest clue that we get from John in this is found in John chapter 15 verse 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.”  Fruit is the measuring stick that allows us, and often those around us, to determine whether or not we are abiding.  Christ defines that fruit by loving one another in obedience (John 15:10, 12-13, 16-17) which John reiterates (1 John 1:10, 3:11, 16, 19-21, to name a few) and Paul references it as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and many other instances where he commands the churches to love one another on accordance to following or being in Christ (1 Corinthians 13, Philippians 2, Romans 13:9-10, Ephesians 4:1-3, Colossians 3:12-17, to name a few).

Abiding is not a list of things we do or accomplish.  It is a spiritual state of being where we no longer look to our own desires or interests but instead allow Christ to minister to the world through us.  This is walking in the light (1 John 5-10).  This is what it means when the prophet Isaiah says of Christ, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  The light of Christ changes us.  As we learn to abide in Him, our attitude towards the world changes.  This is abiding.

I want to close by pleading with you for your own sake.  It is extremely difficult to abide without being in the Word of God.  I’m not saying that it is impossible, but it is difficult.  When humanity is left to its own devices, bad things happen (Proverbs 14:12).  If you truly want to abide in Christ you must be diligent in seeking Him.  The most clearly defined way we have to do this is the Bible.  There will be times that God will speak to you outside of your time in His Word, but those times will always fall in line with what He has revealed to us in Scripture.  We cannot “test the spirits” if we do not know the true Spirit as He has revealed Himself in His Word.  May we be diligent seekers of the true Vine.  May we stop trying to bear fruit apart from Him.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,