1 John 5:6

Deuteronomy 23, 1 John 5:1-12


 1 John 5:6 (New International Version)

6  This is the one who came by water and blood —Jesus Christ.


Blood, it is said, is thicker than water. This is usually taken to mean that family ties, blood ties, transcend any other relationships. Yet some contend that this proverb has completely reversed from its original meaning. They argue that covenant relationships, sealed in blood, transcend family ties, alluded to in the proverb via amniotic fluid, womb water.

However that may be, believers in Christ are children of God (verse 1). They are born into a spiritual family.  Consequently, they love their spiritual siblings and love and respect their mutual Father (verses 1-3). They overcome the world (verse 4), they who believe in Christ (verse 5).

And Christ came by water and blood (verse 6). Jesus’ ministry was bracketed by baptism (by John in the Jordon) and crucifixion (when blood and water came from Jesus’ spear-pierced side). Today on January 2, in our calendar between remembering at Christmas Jesus’ birth and remembering at Easter Jesus’ death, we might pause to consider the whole sweep of Jesus’ life – coming, teaching, healing, suffering, dying, rising, ascending.

And as we pause we might think of our own baptism and the new birth the water of baptism points to and we might think of the communion cup and the blood shed for us and the new covenant that blood inaugurates.

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Ways to live

Our two passages for reflection today give instructions about how to live – firstly for the community of Israel and secondly for the community of the Church.

Provision

In Deuteronomy 18:1-8,  God makes provision for the tribe of Levi, who because of the priestly function they are to perform for the nation, will not receive the land-inheritance that the other tribes of Israel will receive once they enter the Promised Land. Instead they shall receive the “the Lord’s food offerings” as their inheritance. Not having land of their own in which to grow crops or herd cattle etc., it will be the obligation of the other tribes to ensure that the Levites are supported for by taking certain specified portions of the offerings and sacrifices brought to the Lord.

Prohibition

Deuteronomy 18:9-14 goes on to warn about practices that the Israelites will be confronted with once they enter the Promised Land. The polytheistic nations that surrounded Israel practiced all kinds magic and superstition designed to uncover the will of the gods or even compel the gods to action in certain ways. All such occultic practices are to be forbidden in Israel ad they are an abomination to God since the practice of consulting unseen powers by these devices was tantamount to acknowledging a power other than Yahweh, and this was an act of rebellion and demanded his judgement.

Real Love and the blessings which flow from it

I appreciate the way the Message version paraphrases the profound truths in 1 John:12-24 especially verses 18-24.
As followers of Christ, we should not be surprised when we are scorned and mocked in this post-truth age which preaches self-seeking, hatred, intolerance and lies in contrast to the teachings of Christ. The sign of the transformation that sets Christians apart is our love for our brothers and sisters. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins gives us a new understanding of what “true” or “real” love is.  This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves, failure to do so is a denial of Christ himself – see Matthew 25:31-46.
John Stott summarizes the teaching in this passage about hatred and love saying:
  • Hatred characterizes the world, whose prototype is Cain. It originates in the devil, issues in murder and is evidence of spiritual death.
  • Love characterizes the church, whose prototype is Christ. It originates in God, issues in self-sacrifice and is evidence of eternal life.

This love is not simply to be talked about but put into practice. In keeping God’s commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and He lives in us, and as an outworking John states blessings flow:

  • only way we will know we are living truly, living in God’s reality
  • the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it (for God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves)
  • we will no longer accuse or condemn ourselves
  • we are bold and free before God!
  • we are able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we are doing what He said, doing what pleases Him
  • we experience His deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit He gave us.

 

The light and the darkness

Today’s FDR is 1 John 1:5-22 and Deuteronomy 14

John’s reading today opens with the proclamation that ‘God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all’. This proclamation is the message heard directly from Jesus (or God, vs 2) and now being spread by the disciples. I don’t know about you but my heart thrills when I hear this message. God is righteous, holy, pure, without wrong, without sin, without error – the very antithesis of the imagery of darkness which is juxapositioned here. John spends the next few verses exploring how our relationship with a holy (light) father works out within our sinful (darkness) experience.

John points out 3 errors of understanding ¹

  1. Stating we have ‘fellowship’ with God does not make it so. Our fellowship with light is demonstrated by walking in light
  2. We deny truth and deceive ourselves (who else would be fooled?) by claiming we ‘have no sin’. Understanding the sinful condition of our humanity is fundamental to understanding the truth.
  3. We further demonstrate our separation from God and lack of truthful knowledge by claiming that we have not sinned.

It is important here to pause lest we step into error and begin to equate works with salvation, that is not the intent of John’s words. Rather, as Paul states, we are saved ‘to’ good works, not by them (Eph 2:8-10). In our reading, John pulls no punches in outlining that we are sinful and separated from God and that claiming any other understanding is deluded!… BUT the best news is also laid out plainly,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness‘ (1:9)

Not only so, but we have an advocate, Jesus himself! (2:1) Jesus is the propitiation (the turning away of God’s wrath) for our sin. What a marvellous revelation given to us in the word today. Knowing the truth of our sinfulness AND knowing the truth of our forgiveness. In God alone we have true light and in him alone is the remedy for darkness.

Our Deuteronomy reading continues to expand on how the people of God are set apart from the world. Why? Vs 2 ‘you are a people holy to the Lord your God and the Lord has chosen you to be a people of his treasured possession’. While the law provides detail on which foods are fair game and which are off limits, you may also note how God’s people are instructed to also provide and care for others, particularly the marginalised (v21, v28-29). The Israelite nation is to be outward looking.

Perhaps today we can take the time to look both inwards and acknowledge our sin, understand the truth that we are forgiven in Christ and also look outwards to spread the message of grace to our community.

 


  1. Adapted from the New Bible Commentary. Morris, L. L. (1994). 1 John. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1401). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

My commands are not burdensome

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. – 1 John 5:1-5

If ever we are to find a wonderful example of the proof of these opening verses from 1 John 5 it would be in our passage from Daniel 1.

Kind Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian armies were expanding their empire west, and tiny Judah was swallowed up almost without resistance. The Babylonians were fairly generous as conquerors and only took a few of the brightest young men from the Judah’s most prominent families as captives. One of them was Daniel who would have only been a teenager at the time.

Having seen his nation conquered, temple desigrated and taken off into captivity (v2) it would have been easy for Daniel and the other young men to be demoralised and give up on God and to accept the gods and ways of their Babylonian conquerors. The Babylonians did everything they could to change these men from narrow minded Israelites who worshiped the Lord God  into sophisticated Babylonians who worshiped the victorious gods of Babylon. They took Daniel over a thousand kilometres from his family and religious community and changed his name from Daniel (which means “God is my Judge”) to Belteshazzar (“May Bel (a Babylonian God) preserve the king”). He was trained in a new tongue and studied the science, religion and politics of Babylon instead of the law of God.

But despite all this pressure to conform to their new environment, Daniel and his companions resolved not turn their backs on God.  It would not have been easy for them. The first crisis for Daniel came when he had Babylonian cuisine set before him to eat – there was a bigger problem than pork chops and other foods prohibited under the food laws in the Old Testament. The animals killed for the king’s household were first offered as sacrifices to pagan idols and therefore if he and his companions were to eat them they would be participating in idolatry – the sin that had brought God’s judgement on his people in the first place. So Daniel, politely refused to eat and offered his hosts a wise alternative plan – feed us vegetables for ten days and if we look any thinner or sicker than those who ate the king’s food, they would join them at the banquet table.

Here and throughout the book of Daniel we see how his faithfulness in following the Lord’s commandments are rewarded. These passages should help inspire us daily to faithfully grab hold onto the Lord’s commands despite the cost as we face the pressures of a hostile world. So like John and Daniel we can also testify “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Stay faithful daily readers

Glenn B

 

Love and Hate – Life and Death

Today’s Reading 1 John 3:11-24

What the world needs now is love, sweet love” (1965 popular song with lyrics by Hal David and music by Burt Bacharach). How true! Hal David didn’t need to tell the Lord, though – the Lord had already told us! I wonder whether the love of the lyrics (and in society around us) is the love described in today’s reading. I suspect Hal and Burt saw love as “warm affection, attachment, liking or fondness, paternal benevolence, affectionate devotion” (COD 5th ed. 1964). Those who trust in Jesus know what love is” (v. 16). What’s more, we have heard from the beginning: we should love one another” (v.11). There is no need to check a dictionary – here it is in plain view. Yes, it includes those dictionary aspects … but it goes a lot further. Christians have love perfectly modelled in Jesus and his sacrifice as he “laid down his life for us” (v 16). Jesus was “leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). That example showed us how to “not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (v. 18). There’s the possibility that when our society sees this love in action it will hate us (v. 13), perhaps even to the extreme of slaughter as seen in the Cain / Abel history and in parts of our world today.  In our culture it’s more likely that we will be ignored or scoffed at. We will certainly be sidelined, maybe even have discrimination against Christians enshrined in law if the current trends continue.

For the follower of Jesus, when we put love into action we “know that we have passed from death to life” (v. 14). We “practise” love firstly with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we can’t show love here, how will we show it to the persons we rub shoulders with day by day?  How many times in childhood have our parents told us, “What you do speaks louder than what you say!”  It turns out they were echoing the Scriptures.  John goes further, saying that a person who “has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help” (v. 17, NLT) is demonstrating he is not of God. Ouch!

Have I loved enough in actions and truth?  In answering this question some of us have a sensitive conscience that would lead us to doubt our acceptance by Christ.  These doubts cause us to condemn ourselves.  The good news is that God knows our intentions, however poorly we apply them. Our love might be deeply flawed and seem inadequate, but God’s forgiveness is bottomless and He discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4: 12). So He assures us and gives us confidence. The outcome of this confidence is to “receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him” (v. 22). But note that this is a conditional clause: we receive because we “believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and (to) love one another as he commanded us” (v. 23). So we come full circle; we keep God’s commands by believing in the name and loving in deed, and God confirms that He lives in us by the internal witness of His Spirit.

May these verses encourage us to put love into action every day.  Be assured, God our Father will give ample opportunities for us to practise.

Lavish Love and our responses

Today’s FDR (Mo 12/01/2015) are Proverbs 6:20-35 and Galatians 5:1-15
[Click on these highlighted references to open a new window containing these passages from BibleGateway.com ]

My starting point is not with today’s two readings but with some of yesterday’s readings.  I hope you had a chance to read Psalm 100. A short five verses.  I trust you had a chance to worship with us yesterday too.  All services continued their sermon series on God’s Love and at Celebrate at 8 and 10am these were titled Lavish Love .  In one of these services the first reading was Hannah’s Prayer from 1 Samuel 2:1-10 and in both services the core sermon  passage was from 1 John 2:28 – 3:10, which is titled God’s children and sin.

Some times we are confronted by today’s two FDR readings in a way which may not be helpful.  The Proverbs reading is simply titled A Warning against Adultery and the Galatians reading has two titles Freedom in Christ and Life by the Spirit.

Yet seen in the more complete light of the three readings from yesterday and the sermon it is clear there is no other choice for us.  That is to live in the light of Christ. Always.

Psalm 100, titled A Psalm. For giving grateful praise. and Hannah’s Prayer are about worshipping the God who provides enough for us.  The God who not only meets out His lavish love and horrible judgement.  But in the New Testament sense, provides His Own as our advocate and as the One who stands in our judgement place for all we have done, do and will do in disobedience to God’s will for us.

So in this context the Proverbs passage (A Warning against Adultery) is a series of serious directions about our behaviour.  Although the wording is strongly against men making a decision, in some form, to be attracted to and have an adulterous relationship with a woman, it is not reasonable to claim that this passage does not apply to women.  Not when read in the broader context of the whole Bible’s treatment of us all as children of God.  Yet we can often read this passage and others like it without taking time to see it as something we may need to do to modify our behaviour.

When we read the Galatians passage (Freedom in Christ and Life by the Spirit) verse 6b “. . .The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”.  and verse 14 “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.  make two core points.  While the contained discussion is about not following only one branch of teaching and living life in the Spirit this passage seeks to draw us back to the broader picture.

A picture in which three extra passages from yesterday help us to see that these words of wisdom, in Proverbs and Galatians, are for our protection.  For us to heed and modify our behaviour so as not to draw apart from our God who lavishes His love on us.

But there is more, as there often is for the Christian seeking to go further with Christ and our brothers and sisters.

We have a responsibility to not only look after ourselves in these and other matters but we also have a responsibility to walk with our fellow Christians, brother with brother and sister with sister, to assist each other to avoid the traps of temptation and to guide us back onto the path God has for us.  So that at the last day we may stand before God, who will be our judge, not embarrassed nor ashamed, because we sinned repeatedly without turning back to Him. Nor for our failure to seek to help our brother or sister who had fallen.

But when we took a path into sin, or even contemplated it, we pulled up short.  Returning to God’s way.  Or noticing our Christian brother or sister, we men put an arm on our brother’s shoulder, or we women put an arm around our sister’s waist, and actively sought to assist them back to God’s way and supported them in doing so.

A Prayer – May we, in God’s lavish love, keep walking in His ways, seeking His forgiveness when we give in to temptation and then go on resisting sin.  May we, in God’s lavish love, walk with and support others who are struggling, and where we are allowed support them to keep resisting sin.  We ask these things in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Glenn

The words of others

As we conclude our readings in 1 John 5 the words of John and a prayer from our prayer book strike me as the best blog material for today (Sa 19/07/2014).

Concluding affirmations

13 I write these things 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 we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.

16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also 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 by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

( 1 John 5:13-21, NIV) (1)

 

And a prayer:
Heavenly Father,
give us faith to receive your word,
understanding to know what it means,
and the will to put it into practice;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen
(2)

May these scriptural words and this prayer bless you.
Glenn

Footnotes
1. Courtesy of Bible Gateway at http://www.biblegateway.com
2. An Australian Prayer Book, Standing Committee of General Synod,
1978, p94