Setting Affections

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…”

1 John 2:15

The world in this verse means that which excludes God and love for the world is that which entices and captivates our affections. In the next verse John explains what that is.

The “lust of the flesh” is appetites of the body or sensual gratification. James writes, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). Those who persist in this way may find Romans 1:26 applicable, “God gave them up to vile passions.” “Lust of the flesh” may be in the form of pursuing physical pleasures, emotional comfort and freedom from the sexual restraint of one man and one woman in marriage. All these appetites have the ability to gain power and control over the one who feeds them. They are addictive.

The “lust of the eyes” is the appetite of the mind expressed in covetousness. We want something that belongs to another. It explains why we may be desperate to have something but, once we have it, we quickly lose interest

The “pride of life” is the appetite of the human spirit seeking self-sovereignty. This was the lie Satan fed Adam and Eve, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Pride declares I am my own god. Self-esteem manufactured by trying to apply my own value will not satisfy. Self-esteem rightly applied means I realize the value that God places on me as revealed in such places as John 3:16 and Romans 5:8. Essentially, the “pride of life” is the deification of man. It is a futile attempt to deny God’s existence or sovereignty and our accountability to Him. By this we feel free to do whatever we wish.

In verse seventeen John gives us the reason for not loving this world: “the world is passing away, and the lust of it.” That surely speaks to the futility of pursuing things of this world. Those who love it will continue to lust for it in eternity but it will have gone forever. What a torment that would be for them!

On the other hand, “he who does the will of God abides forever.” No person with any wisdom invests in something he knows will be destroyed without a return on the investment. The wise investor invests in that which will keep on giving a return for that investment. John wrote this letter so that our joy might be complete (1:4). If we set our affections on Jesus Christ that joy will be fulfilled.

Feed My Sheep

“He said to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; you know that I love You.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’”

John 21:17

Each time Peter affirmed that he loved Jesus he received a similar response; “Feed My lambs;” “Tend My sheep;” and “Feed My sheep.” One who has a genuine love for Jesus will have a genuine love for the objects of His special love – other believers.

Jesus commands Christians to love one another (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; 1 John 3:11) but we may lose sight of what that means. Jesus gave an illustration to His disciples recorded in John 13 when He washed the disciples’ feet. Peter got the point as we can read in Acts and Peter’s letters where he writes, “Above all things have fervent love for one another” (1 Peter 4:8) and then goes on to reveal that fervent love is expressed by exercising the spiritual gifts given to us (1 Peter 4:9-11). If we love Jesus we will love His people expressed by serving His people.

“Feed My lambs” means that we will have a special concern and care for those who cannot care for themselves, especially new believers. That means we will go out of our way to disciple and mentor them.

“Tend My sheep” means to shepherd His people. We can all be  shepherds who look to the needs of others (Philippians 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:2). This will include providing what they need, guarding them against the enemy, warning, encouragement and comfort (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

“Feed My sheep” means that we nourish other Christians with the Bread of Life – God’s word developed in a relationship with Jesus Christ. We will teach God’s word to others. In all of these we note that the lambs and sheep are His and we are under delegated authority to engage in activities that express His sacrificial love for His flock. We may differ in the expression of these depending on opportunity and gifting but we cannot affirm we love Jesus if we are not so engaged. Singing songs of love to Jesus is hypocritical if we are not serving His people out of genuine love (John 14:15, 21, 23; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6). To love other Christians with God’s kind of love (1 John 3:16) is to serve one another without condition or expectation of anything in return.

I am Alive

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins”

Ephesians 2:1

There can hardly be sweeter words than these to a person who knows that they were spiritually dead with no fellowship with God but now have intimacy with Him. What real joy can one have if they only have a vague and uncertain hope of heaven? John writes, “These things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). He is referring to the very words of Jesus who said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Joy is in knowing (1 John 5:13).

Our Creator had placed Adam in His beautiful garden and said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). We know that he did eat and he did die immediately in regard to intimacy of fellowship with God and he brought both spiritual and bodily death to all mankind (Romans 5:12).

Clearly, from the verse at the head of this article, we can be made alive to God again and this is the foundation of our joy. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul writes that being made alive is a gift. That is, we have done nothing to deserve or merit God’s favour. “The gift of God” might be better translated, “The Gift which is God.” God Himself is the Gift in the Person of Jesus Christ. At Christmas we focus on the arrival of that Gift and at Easter we focus on the means by which He made it possible for we who were dead to be made alive.

We will be filled with joy when we are aware that salvation is God’s gift to anyone who will believe Him. Who can attain to God’s righteousness and holiness from conception to bodily death? Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and he goes on to write, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As we read Ephesians 2:1 again, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” our hearts leap with joy that He has given the perfect Gift which is His Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Slaves

 “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”

Romans 6:16

In answer to the question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Paul gives an emphatic, No!  In expanding on that succinct response he gives us a few before-and-after statements in support of that response.

We know that having been crucified with Christ we should no longer be slaves to sin (v 6). We know that having died with Christ we shall also live with Him (v 8). As a result we are to count on the fact that we are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (v 11). Since these things are true it is unreasonable that we would yield ourselves to sin’s power. On the contrary, the reasonable thing to do is to yield to God and His righteousness (vv 12-14). Thank God there is forgiveness when we do stumble (1 John 1:9).

In verse sixteen, quoted above, Paul compares two opposites: sin and obedience. Sin is that disposition that is in rebellion against the will of God. It started when Adam chose to disbelieve and disobeyed God’s word. That disposition has been passed down through every generation to every person. Obedience is that disposition that flows out of love and trust. One who receives God’s love and trusts Him will obey His word because he/she knows it leads to God’s righteousness and holiness. Disobedience shows that we have accepted Satan’s lie and do not desire God’s righteousness.

If we allow sin to reign in our bodies and present our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness we will not be able to experience intimate fellowship with God. This will be loss to us and those around us but especially to Jesus Christ. The more intimate our fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, the greater we will experience the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). If we are lacking in any aspects of this fruit it may be because we are yielding to sin. We were slaves to sin (v 17) but now, in Christ, we are set free from sin (v 18). Do I want to be a slave of sin or a servant of Jesus Christ? We are slaves to whom we yield. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v 23). Choose!

Choose Life

“We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God”

John 19:7

There are some who say that Jesus never claimed deity – but that is not what the religious leaders in Israel at the time understood. There are a number of occasions when they believed Jesus was claiming deity for Himself and each time they sought how they might put Him to death (e.g. John 5:18; 7:29-30, 32, 44; 8:58-59; 11:49-53). At no time did Jesus try and correct them which confirms their understanding of what He was saying. Some have claimed that “Son of God” is not equal to being God but if that were so, the response of the chief priests would make no sense. They clearly understood that only deity could be the Son of God.

Under the law, anyone falsely claiming deity was to be put to death – so Jesus would be very foolish to falsely claim deity. Ultimately this was the only true accusation that they could make against Jesus. What they, and many since, have not grasped is that He is God in flesh (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1-4), an essential fact in redemption.

Each time Jesus was asked if He was the Messiah or Son of God He affirmed that He was (e.g. John 9:25; 18:37). Throughout His ministry He provoked, through His words and miracles, people to query who He is. This was repeated several times in regard to the Sabbath.

In John chapter 19 it is interesting to observe the banter between the chief priests and Pilate on this question. Pilate referred to Jesus as “the Man” and the chief priests said that Jesus claimed to be “the Son of God” making Himself equal with God. The Jews then demanded His death by crucifixion. Pilate, knowing he was trapped showed his hatred for the Jews by calling Jesus, “your King.” This he also put on the cross in three languages (v 20) to publicly humiliate the Jews and yet unwittingly declare the truth. In the exchange the chief priests uttered their final renunciation of Jesus demanding His death by crucifixion (v 15). We live in a world that is rejecting Jesus’ words and thereby rejecting Him. We are observing a rapid rising of opposition to that which Jesus taught and attempts to silence His word through laws befitting the spirit of antichrist. Nations and people who reject Jesus and His word, and refuse to accept His love-gift of salvation will be judged by His word and rejected by Him (John 3:16-18, 36; 1 John 5:11-12).

Choose life; choose Jesus.

I’m Not That Bad

“… we preach Christ crucified: to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.”

1 Corinthians 1:23

One of the most abhorrent and counter-cultural ideas in Christianity is that everyone is a sinner, and is freely offered forgiveness and redemption. Every “monster”, no matter what they have done, can be saved. Is there any sin that is too great for Christ’s atonement on the cross? No. Was his death sufficient to cover all the worst atrocities perpetuated throughout history? <strong>Yes, it was.</strong>(1 John 1:7)

This concept is anathema due to one of our greatest weaknesses – the persistent notion that at least we are “not as bad as those others”. After all, it’s insulting and degrading to be lumped into the same category as those we regard as the “worst of humanity”.

A certain man was quoted saying “Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world. If you do so, you are insulting yourself.” (this quote is also attributed to another). This implies that we often sell ourselves short – by comparing ourselves at our worst, to others at their best. It has a grain of truth: that we fail to retain a right picture of ourselves. Although I expect the author of the quote did not intend it, a higher truth may be obtained from it: that we should instead compare ourselves with some One who is not of this world.

We ask the mirror on the wall, “who is the fairest of them all?” and the mirror replies, “You are the fairest” – but the mirror is merely parroting what we already believe to be true. The higher truth is that only through God’s eyes (as revealed in his Word) can we know ourselves truly. And only thereafter can we start to see our fellow humans in the right way as well.

We must let go of pride (Isaiah 5:21), and let go of condemnation (Romans 8:1). Instead of comparing ourselves to fallen creatures, we must set our eyes on the sinless one, Jesus, who has called us to Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

The Root of the Problem

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

1 John 5:12

There are many species of plant that will regrow from the base even if all growth above ground is removed. Unless the root is put to death the plant will simply regrow. For many plants that is an advantage utilised by gardeners but it is a problem when we want the plant dead. The growth above ground is the expression of the life below. We may remove the above ground expression of that life but that will not kill the root.

It is the same with sin. Acts of sin are an expression of the root nature of sin. They are the symptoms of the root of sin. Unfortunately the world is often occupied with trying to remove the symptoms of sin without destroying the root. Various ideological and religious groups are trying to impose their view of utopia on others by education, intimidation or by force. However, none deal with the root cause and they wonder why they are not succeeding.

The media has its ideology which for the most part is of the spirit of antichrist. Part of the problem is that most people only consider the symptoms. Many Christians, both nominal and true, continue to express the symptoms of sin in grievous ways. The way that some deal with the symptoms of sin is to suppress acts of sin by force, or deny sin’s existence. Others believe that we can change people’s hearts through education.

The fact is that only Jesus can deal with the root of sin. John the Baptist said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). On the cross, Jesus didn’t just take away the symptoms of sin; He took away the root as well. John expresses this in his first letter. “If we say we have no sin [the root], we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins [the symptoms] He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins [the symptoms] and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness [the root] (1 John 8-9).

The uproar in the media over a particular tweet on social media is in regard to people who express certain symptoms of sin not being worthy of heaven. The debate misses the point entirely. None of us are fit for heaven until sin is destroyed at its root. Jesus alone can put the root to death. If the root is not dead the symptoms will reappear. John writes that only those who have Christ have put to death the root (1 John 5:12).

With All My Heart

“We know that when He [Jesus] is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

1 John 3:2

We may wonder what life will be like when we have passed on to be with Jesus. The Bible doesn’t give as much of a description as we might like but there are clues. Most descriptions have to do with nature rather than material things although some passages do describe physical attributes of the new material world.

To Jesus and the New Testament writers the physical aspects are of secondary importance. The prime aspect of our future with Jesus and with each other is that of what we will be like in nature. In the verse above, John writes that we will be like Jesus. Since Christ is in us we should expect that His nature will be expressed more and more as we learn of Him and grow in faith in Him and His word. For the present, we fall short and that grieves us but in the resurrection we shall be just like Him.

When Jesus was asked by an expert in the law what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked him what was written in the law. His response was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This man knew that he couldn’t achieve that so asked for clarification. Jesus’ answer gives us the account of the Good Samaritan.

For now we all fall short but it is a description of what we are in Christ and shall be when with Him (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus loves the Father in this way and so will we. Little by little His nature will be expressed in our lives as we allow Him to live in us. It will be completed and perfected when we pass into His presence.

Read and pray the verse again; but this time, personalise it as a witness of faith that He will accomplish it:

“I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, and with all my mind. And my neighbour as myself”

This is a description of you and all who have trusted Jesus as we will be in His eternal kingdom. It is the fulfilment of the New Covenant. What is left but to give glory, praise and thanks to God for His amazing Gift in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and to work out what He has worked in? “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”  (Philippians 1:6; 2:12).

With All Your Mind

“The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.”

1 Timothy 4:1, 2

None of us like to hear that someone we love and care for has taken on board teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ that we know is false. We like it even less when that person is someone we have prayed for and shared the truth with. However, denying that they are deceived doesn’t help. It is the truth that sets people free, not lies.

We live in a world that gives false hope. Many churches that claim to be “Christian” also give false hope. The doctrines (teaching) they give is contrary to truth and no matter how moral an organisation may be, if it teaches contrary to the Bible then it is leading people into hell.

We would do well to heed Paul’s warning. Hiding our heads in the sand will not help. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy was to give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (4:13). The Bereans were commended for doing just this so as to protect themselves from erroneous teaching.

In the past few decades, in churches, there appears to have been a move away from absolute truth in favour of appeasing the ideologically perverse world or having a good feeling in “worship.” For many, worship has become an experience in which the truth of the Bible is inconvenient. The cry in many churches has been to cut back on teaching the Bible and have more bland songs that touch the emotions and not the intellect or mind. Jesus said we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Worship without sound teaching is not worship and it must involve the mind. Jesus said that we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30) One of the saddest things is to see someone we care for reject the true Gospel and accept the lie. The best thing we can do for them is to cling to the truth, not water it down or compromise it. Love and truth go hand in hand and are inseparable just as worship and sound teaching go hand in hand and are inseparable. These are foundational aspects of the Divine Nature of our God and essential for our fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3).

Evaluating your Soul

“What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Matthew 16:26

This is the one of the questions being asked of people throughout the ages. For the most part people put the question out of their minds thinking perhaps that they will worry about it at another time or that it doesn’t matter. By His words and actions Jesus always provoked people to consider eternity and the question as to who He is. He even asked His disciples who they believed Him to be just before making the above statement (16:15).

What could be of such value that it was of more value than our eternal soul? Jesus gives two possible answers in Matthew chapter nineteen.

A wealthy young man in a place of authority came to Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16). He wanted to exchange something for eternal life. He claimed to have kept all the commandments that relate to human relationships (v 20) but then Jesus asked him to abide by the commandments that relate to his relationship with God. To obtain eternal life the young man would need to forsake all that he currently valued, earthly treasure, and follow Jesus, heavenly treasure.

At the time the young man regarded his temporal wealth and position of more value than his relationship with God (v 22). Though he wanted eternal life he was not willing to exchange his wealth for it. There are many who want heaven but not Jesus and neither will they surrender control of their lives and possessions to Jesus. Jesus gave His life for us. Can we give less to Him (Romans 12:1-2)? Others may not wish to exchange human relationships for their soul. I have heard people say they would rather be in hell with friends than in heaven with Jesus. They have no idea of the enormity of what they are saying. There is nothing wrong with love for family and a desire to be with them. We should be very thankful when that is possible; but will we give family priority ahead of Jesus? He says, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms [employment] for My names sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life” (19:29). Anything we put ahead of Jesus is an idol which will control our life. We must exchange that idol for Jesus in order to obtain eternal life. Eternal life is only found in Him (1 John 5:11-12).