Christianity gets me through tragedy. People wonder, how can you love a God who allows such things to happen. First, tragedy is caused by the free will of man, it does not come from God, second, there is evil in the world. All I could think as I watched the news from Paris is, God must be crying as he looks at what we are doing with our beautiful world. Christianity is an issue, an issue of the heart and as Christians we should never settle.
It might be repetitive, maybe even a little severe, but the truth is, it is very dear!
1 John, a letter, an epistle, written in approx 60-75 AD by John…Many people skip right by it; skimming their way to Revelation. I didn’t know where it was in the Bible until this fall, when I learned 1John would be our study following summer break. I recall thinking, it’s so short, how can we possibly sustain a study through to November with 1John. Fact is, I could spend an entire year in 1John! When Paris happened I could not have been studying a more succinct chapter in the Bible. 1John became a gift as I read words from thousands of years ago, soothing and reassuring me in the present as surely as they did then.
I will review 1John every time I am in the weeds! When I need encouragement, fortitude, when evil grabs my heart and soul blurring my focus, this is where I will go.
Written to reinforce authentic Christian truths to Christians fleeing Rome, to souls evading persecution and in the process spreading Christianity, John was deeply concerned about what he was hearing. His flock found themselves in a new place, surrounded by Gnostics teaching something quite different from what they understood firsthand from people like John who saw, heard and touched Jesus Christ. Gnostics believed Jesus was not a man, and in fact a spirit. John needed to correct the errors, reassure his children that Christ lived, as a man with a soul and one who suffered in this world, he was not a spirit. He felt pain like you and me. John needed to protect his flock from false teachings, false ideas and false idols and reinforce the ideals set forth by Christianity.
Christianity, Have No Doubts and Never Settle
John reassured his children about the one true light, the light of God, encouraging them to walk in the light, to love and not follow false prophets, to remember and not worship false idols. He reinforced the love God has for them and asked them to remain faithful. He asks Christians to overcome the wickedness in the world and erases any doubt that 1) God will help and 2) we have eternal life through the cross.
In Chapter 5 John asks them to believe with all their heart in God’s glory and eternal life, to overcome evil using the power of God, to pray for Christian brothers and sisters who lost their way. He is imploring them to never settle, and to be influenced by God, not the world.
1John 5:21 reading from several translations:
- My little children, guard yourselves from idols. (ASV)
- Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (KJV)
- Children, you must stay away from idols. (CEV)
- My children, keep yourselves safe from false gods! (GNT)
- Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles. (MSG)
- So, dear children, keep yourselves away from false gods. (NCV)
- Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. (NLT)
Do you know any ‘Nice Christian people’?
We are human, we have issues, we focus on the wrong things, often in the name of ‘good’ Christians end up doing things for the wrong reasons. I know many ‘nice’ people who are charitable because it looks good, because they believe it will get them into heaven, but their hearts betray them. They harbor racism, intolerance and are quick to judge. At issue, it’s not about being NICE. What we sometimes forget is God’s grace is for all! We can never be nice enough, or good enough, we can’t earn our way into Heaven, it’s only through the grace of God that we have the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.
Judaism is about ‘getting it right’ while Christianity is done out of gratitude and a desire to please Him, not a desire to get through the pearly gates. Think about it, If you could earn your way in based on being ‘nice’ and ‘getting the rules right’ we would not need Jesus or the cross.
Christianity is an issue of the heart
John asks us to let love guide and guard us against things in the world that cause us to drift from the Light.
O my son, give me your heart.
May your eyes take delight in following my ways.
God wants our hearts, he wants us to love Him, talk to Him, to think about Him as we go through our days, to fully surrender and stay in the Light.
Do you ever wonder about the Old Testament God and the New Testament God, do they seem different to you?
It is a subject that comes up now and then. But it’s the same God, right? I look at it like a parent would. He set up the world as a beautiful garden, but what did we do, we messed it up, we went SOUTH! In the OT the Jewish people wanted a King, other nations had Kings, they were a kingdom, so they wanted a King. God reassured them, I am your King, and my laws are written on your heart. But, the people were not satisfied, they wanted a King so God let them live with their choices. Choices that led to difficult times and difficult situations. It was in desperation to save His people God came, as Jesus Christ, to save them from themselves opening the door to the New Testament, and a new way. A new covenant, a world where it is less about rules and more about the heart.
We get to choose. We choose what we believe, accept, do, how we act, treat one another, how we behave and what we say. Thousands of times a day, minute by minute we make choices, and others do to, that impact our lives. I stray many times a day; I let my mind wander to past hurts, to mistreatment and unfairness, I sometimes struggle to NOT dwell on negative thoughts. I let myself and my body down by choosing to eat something I know is bad, I get angry, say mean things, argue just for the fun of it, am lazy, overspend, gossip, and more. In short, I lose sight of God. That’s when all that negative stuff happens, it’s when I lose focus. The message in 1John is simple, don’t take your eyes off him! All the Lord wants is for us to choose Him, to do things his way, His will not ours!
He wants us to love Him, to talk to Him, to think about Him. Do not let EVIL win!
God wants us to surrender our hearts fully, with no reservation and to share the good news. Evil would like to keep us stuck in one place, a place of non-grace. A place where fear and insecurity rule. On November 13, 2015 France was under attack and a music venue was ground zero. 129 innocent people died across Paris while hundreds more were injured as the world looked on in horror.
A mom died that night, moved by his response to evil, hatred and malice, her husband said:
‘Friday night, you took an exceptional life. The love of my life, the mother of my son. But you will not have my hatred.’ He went on to say, ‘You’re asking for it, but responding with hatred and anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security – you lost. We are just two now, my son and me. But we are stronger than all the armies in the world.’
What hangs you up when you ponder your day, your week, your year? Evil would like you to feel shame, guilt, self-pity, lust, insecurity, greed, and worse. In short, evil wants you to fall apart!
Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.
Our hearts deceive us, with every beat life is sustained physically, but mentally what is on our hearts often comes out of our mouths or in behaviors. We need to guard our hearts. 1John reminds me that God is always with us, that we are not alone, when we drift to old hurts and disappointments we need to STOP and pray. When we find ourselves reacting before we know what’s going on we need to STOP and pray. Using free will, we can choose Him, choose His way, trust Him and let go! Even when the world is falling apart around us due to choices evil people make, we need to have faith in the most difficult circumstances as well as the easy ones. Constancy is the key.
5 Things that pull us from the primacy of God
- AN OUT-OF-CONTROL SCHEDULE
Ephesians 5:16 Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. (GNT)
Be responsible and seek God’s will in everything you do. Make the best use of your time allowing God to stimulate your soul and thank Him as you go about your days. Allow Him to strengthen you, to keep you in the light, not grumpy or agitated, go into your day aware of God’s presence. Don’t squeeze Him in somewhere, talk to him all day long. Keep him at the front of your mind and in your thoughts.
- MISPLACED AFFECTIONS
1John 2:15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.
Don’t love the world’s ways and don’t love ‘stuff’. When you fall into THE MATERIAL trap you are squeezing God out. Wanting your way in every situation, craving the ‘things’ of the world, wanting to appear important, none of it has anything to do with God and is counter to what He put in your heart. Misplaced affections separate you from the Father setting you adrift.
Matthew 14:28-31 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” – “Yes, come,” Jesus said. – So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. – But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. – Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,”Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
Peter took his eyes off Jesus to look at the waves. We all do it; we take our eyes off of Him when we are afraid, discouraged, angry, and confused. Life will consume us unless we give up control and love God in all circumstanceS, allowing his grace to take us from anguish and grief to peace and joy. He puts us back in the boat.
1Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
When blessed with abundance, when prospering, we drift away and become complacent. Our daily conversations dwindle. We need to be aware that abundance and blessings can set us up to become distant if we are not CAREFUL. We talked about differences in how we converse with God, some of us set a time in the morning, diligently reading, praying and meditating on the Word then head into the day never giving God another thought. Others do not set aside that time each day, but can be seen chatting with God all day long. Which are you?
- PARASITIC SINS
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Admit your sins, what are your issues, what do you struggle with? Name it, and say it, out loud, to another person, Someone you trust. Let a friend know about your struggle and ask them to pray for you. Find an accountability partner and talk! How do you need help?
Matthew 6:33-34 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
God knows our hearts. He knows what causes us to drift, what pulls us away. 1John reminds me to seek Him first. Everything I need God has the power to bring. I don’t need more stuff, presents under the tree, a new diamond ring. It’s people that matter most, and the way we love them. So I am making a fresh commitment to do things differently this year and come New Year’s day I will let you know what was different as a result. I have an accountability partner, my friend Kelly, and encourage you to find one, someone you trust with your innermost soul, the person who knows you best, the good, the bad and the ugly, the person you can trust with your heart. Stay in touch with them and stay accountable towards keeping your eyes on Christ as you step out of the boat to walk on water. And if you should falter, become afraid and look at the waves, taking your eyes off Christ, don’t worry.
He’s got you!
If you would like to read more about surrendering check out:
and check out the Bible Study tab for more from our Wednesday group. I look forward to reading your comments about your journey.
Bless you! With a smile, Carlyn 🙂