Category: 1 John (page 1 of 6)

Secure in Not “Falling Away”

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
~Psalm 125

Another thing that can mess with our safety and security in the Lord is the possibility of “falling away.” Backsliding, maybe. I once was lost but now I’m found. And I might get lost again.

Some Christian traditions teach “once-saved-always-saved” like it’s a non-negotiable contract. Once you say “yes” and sign on the dotted line, you can’t become a free-agent again no matter what the league commissioner rules. Well, that’s just not true. You certainly can turn away.

If God does not force you to faith in the first place, he’s not going to keep you against your will. Think about Judas. Think about Hymenaeus and Alexander. The Bible says they rejected their faith and their good conscience. They shipwrecked their salvation.

“Those who turn to crooked ways, the Lord will banish with the evildoers.” ~Psalm 125:5

So if it is possible to fall away, how do I know I haven’t? How do I know I haven’t already lost my faith, especially when my feelings are bad on the inside and bad things are happening to me on the outside?

Please, hear this. It is not possible to drift unconsciously from faith to out of favor with God. It doesn’t happen without you knowing it. It can’t. Yes, we all wander around like lost sheep, but Jesus is a faithful shepherd who pursues you relentlessly. Yes, we have our ups and downs, but he is a rock. A mountain. We do break our promises sometimes, but our Lord never breaks his. Discipleship to Jesus is not a legal contract where  if we don’t live up to our end of the dead, God is free to bail on it, too. It’s God’s covenant. God establishes the conditions and he alone guarantees the results.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” ~John 10:28-29

How does the song go? No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand?

Yes, you can quit if you want to. You can say “no” to God. You can turn to the crooked way. God is not going to hang onto you against your will. But you’re never going to accidentally fall away from God or lose your salvation without knowing it. Turning away from God, losing your salvation, is a deliberate decision. In fact, we should never use the phrase “lose your salvation.” Nobody loses his or her salvation like you lose your car keys. You can give it back. You can turn your back on it. But it’s no accident or oversight. It’s a sustained, determined, on-going rejection.

1 Thessalonians 5 says the God of peace is sanctifying you through and through. He is making you holy. He is keeping you blameless. He calls you, he is faithful, and he will do what he’s promised to do. He’s the one making your salvation happen, not you.

But I’m a sinner.

All the great people of faith you know are sinners! I don’t know a single perfect Christian, do you? I’ve never met one.

Our security is not tied up in our performances. It’s grounded solidly in the faithfulness of God.

The first line in Psalm 125 says “those who trust in the Lord.” Not those who trust in their obedience or in their own righteousness.

“This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life… 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.” ~1 John 5:11-13

God wants you to be more sure of your salvation than you are. You belong to him forever.

Peace,

Allan

You Can’t Beat the Devil

The stuff we’ve been talking about here for the past two posts are things you’re going to be dealing with at some level for most of your life. The seeds of doubt, the questions about your own worth and salvation, the lack of assurance — you can’t defeat the devil. But Jesus defeats the devil for you. That’s the really good news: Jesus is your Savior and he defeats the devil for you.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work!” ~1 John 3:8

Look at how Jesus does this during that face-to-face in the desert. Jesus counters the devil from his solid position as God’s beloved Son and he uses the blessings and the promises of Scripture to defeat the devil for you.

Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8. I live on every word that comes from the mouth of God. I live and thrive on who God says I am, not in who you say I am. I believe what God says about me, not what you’re saying about me.

Then Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6. Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Don’t question my identity in God. If he says he loves me and that I belong to him and that he’s well pleased with me, don’t you doubt that for a second.

Then Jesus says, “Away from me! I’m done with this! There’s only one God, the One who loves me and accepts me, the One whose image I share!”

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” ~Hebrews 4:15-16

We don’t just have the Word of the Lord, we also have the Lord of the Word. We don’t just have the book, as beautiful and as powerful as it is, we also have Jesus, the Holy Son of God himself.

Jesus is the One who crushes the head of the serpent. He’s the Savior lifted up on the stake, the One we look to for healing from the viper’s bites. He’s the One who throws the dragon into the fiery abyss.

Jesus Christ is not just a good man who shows us how to live. He’s also not just a King who destroys all evil in one mighty stroke. Evil is all around us, it’s inside us, we’re all infected. If Jesus came here to destroy all evil on the spot, he would have ended all of us, too. No, Jesus is a King who came to a cross.

Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave vindicates God’s blessing and validates God’s promises and destroys forever the work of the devil and his lies. Jesus tells us to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one.” And Jesus is the One who delivers.

If Jesus is who he says he is, you should believe him when he says who you are. What he says about you is true. What he’s placed in you is true. He wants you to view yourself and understand yourself, not through your past or even your present, but through his promise.

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 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 — even in his Son Jesus Christ.” ~1 John 5:19-20

Peace,

Allan

You Are Blessed By God

You are blessed by God. This is first and it’s foundational and it’s forever. You are blessed by God. This goes all the way back to the very first chapter of the Bible, the very beginning. The very day God created the first man and woman.

“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them…” ~Genesis 1:27-28

God blessed them. The very first words God ever spoke to people at creation is blessing. Before God gives any command or any law, before he gives out jobs or guidelines for behavior, God gives his blessing. God’s blessing is not based on performance or on meeting some expectations. God’s blessings are based solely on the fact that you are created in his holy image, you bear his likeness, he made you and put himself into you. You belong to God and your are loved by God and God is very pleased with you because you are his child.

That is your identity. First and foremost and forever. That’s not just what you are, it’s who you are: blessed by God. And God speaks that blessing over and over and over to you, from that first day of creation glory to this very moment right now while you’re reading these words.

“This is what the Lord says — he who created you, he who formed you, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine… Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.'” ~Isaiah 43

“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!” ~Isaiah 49

Jesus says there’s not one little bird in the sky that goes down without the Father being aware of it. What about you? You’re worth more to God than all the little birds in the world! God knows the exact number of hairs on your head!

Jesus says you know how to give good gifts to your children, and you’re not even that good yourself. How much more does your Father in heaven give to his children! How much more grace does he have for those who belong to him!

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~ 1 John 3:1

Over and over and over again, every page of Holy Scripture reminds you of the blessing.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?… [Nothing} in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” ~Romans 8

You are blessed by God. And it’s not based on your performance. It’s not founded on what you do or how well you do it. God loves you because you are his child. God commits to you and publicly accepts you and approves of you because you are his child. You are blessed by God.

And that’s exactly where the devil attacks you.

Man, this is so important.

Ephesians 6 tells us to take our stand against the devil’s schemes. 1 Timothy 3 warns us not to fall into the devil’s trap. And we know what it is. The devil attacks the blessing. The devil wants to undermine your confidence in Christ, he wants you to doubt your identity as a beloved child of God, he wants you to lose your assurance — your certainty — as saved by Jesus Christ and sealed forever by God’s Holy Spirit.

I believe the devil wants to keep you from believing that Jesus really is the Son of God and the Savior of the World. Maybe Jesus was just a really wise and moral teacher. Maybe Jesus wasn’t really physically raised from the dead — those are just stories. Maybe there are other ways to get to heaven. I think the devil starts there. But his most subtle, most dangerous, and most effective attacks are on your blessing from God, your status as a beloved child who belongs to God.

If the devil can get your brain to believe that God loves you, but your heart to feel like God only loves you if you’re good enough — that’s his goal. If the devil can get your brain to believe that Christ’s death takes care of all your sins, but your heart to feel like that won’t cover the super big sins or the sins you can’t shake — that’s what he wants. If the devil can get your brain to accept that you are saved by God’s grace, but your heart to feel like you haven’t done enough…

The Bible calls the devil the tempter, and he certainly is that. But much more than that, the Bible calls the devil the accuser, the liar, the father of lies. Jesus says lying is the devil’s native tongue.

I’m convinced that most of the trouble in my world and in your world — whatever trouble you find in your heart and your soul, whatever’s not good inside you — is a result of knowing and believing in God’s love for you in your brain, and confessing his mercy and grace for you with your lips, but feeling something different in your heart.

All the research shows that when you ask Christians how they believe God thinks about them — “When God thinks about you, how does he feel? — more than two-thirds of Christians say “disappointed.” God is disappointed with me. Not “I belong to God.” Not “God loves me.” Not “God is well pleased with me.” We don’t feel what the Bible says about God and me, we feel what the devil says about God and me!

Brilliant, huh? And evil.

Peace,

Allan

The Primary Command

Few things are as thrilling in sports as a tied NHL Stanley Cup playoff game in the third period.  Only overtime. And the Stars outlasted the Predators Monday night in an edge-of-your-seat overtime slugfest to advance to the second round. My heart has just now this morning returned to its normal rhythms. Overtime in an NHL playoff game is the only true “sudden death” in sports. And it’s incredible.

One of the great things about a Stars game on TV is the running color commentary provided by Daryl “Razor” Reaugh. Every 90-seconds or so during every single game, Razor says something that makes me giggle. The guy’s a genius. Monday night he referred to the Stars’ six-foot-seven goalie Ben Bishop as the “net-minding mastadon.” After a wild flurry of saves late in the second period, Razor called Bishop a “brilliant rubber regurgitator.” He described a save by Nashville’s goaltender as “a sassy glove grab.” When the game was over and the American Airlines Center crowd was celebrating the series win, Razor reminded all the TV viewers back home that “the singular of confetti is confetto.”

Their second round series against the Blues begins in St. Louis tomorrow night.

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The world expects Christians to show love. That’s why people rip into the Church and rail against us when we don’t show love. That’s why they criticize us.

People don’t cuss at the beach because it’s sandy; it’s supposed to be sandy. We don’t complain when rain is wet; it’s supposed to be wet. we don’t gripe when the wind blows in Amarillo; it’s supposed to blow. That’s what we expect. And the world expects followers of Jesus to love. So, they rightfully call us out when we don’t.

(Sometimes we gripe when the wind blows in Amarillo. Let’s be honest.)

Scripture tells us plainly that, for children of God and disciples of Christ, the primary command is to love. From the Old Testament law and prophets to Jesus and his apostles, loving other people is the primary response and the natural reflection of God’s love that’s been so undeservedly showered on us

According to the Bible, if you’re not a loving person, you don’t know God. If you’re not showing love to others, you haven’t truly received God’s love for yourself.

Nobody in the world will listen to you talk about God if they experience you as an unloving person. You’ve got no credibility. It’s obvious you don’t know who you’re talking about. At Texas Dodge, they don’t let their salespeople drive Fords or Chevys. The president of PETA doesn’t run the membership drive for the NRA. And you’re not going to influence anybody for Christ if you’re not a loving person. You’ll push people away.

The Church is fractured and our witness to the world is compromised because we keep getting this one thing out of order. Instead of loving first, we judge first. We condemn first. We yell first. We whine and complain first. We forward the email first. We insult first, and then love comes somewhere after that. It’s out of order.

We put socioeconomic boundaries first. We put racial differences first. We prioritize parties, platforms, and politicians. We make denominational distinctions primary. We figure out our theology, doctrine, and church structures first, then decide later where, when, and how to show love.

Yes, there are difficult passages in the Bible that must be figured out and there are parts of Scripture about which followers of Jesus can legitimately disagree. But the command to love as the most important command and the one that trumps all the other commands is not one of them.

The apostle Paul tells us that a Christian who doesn’t love is like “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Eugene Peterson’s Message translates it “the creaking of a rusty gate.” Someone else might say “fingernails on a chalkboard.” In other words, a Christian or a church like that is irritating. It gets on people’s nerves. It’s outwardly obnoxious.

If love doesn’t come first, if love is not the origin and the energy behind and through what you’re doing, it’s not good. A Christian or a church that prioritizes love over everything else fills the world with the hope and healing and joy of our Lord. Without love, a Christian or a church is a tree that bears no fruit, a cloud that produces no rain. Obnoxious.

This is a critical time in the Church. Theologians, historians, and sociologists have been telling us for four decades that we are going through the greatest transition in the last 500 years of Church history. And what you do matters. It matters to you and your family, it matters to your friends and your city, it matters to this country and to the whole world.

Anger is acceptable now in our culture, but that’s not who you are. Discord and division are society’s tools, but not yours. The culture encourages you to look out for yourself first, but that’s not proper for Christians. Asserting myself, my rights, and my personality is not my priority as a follower of Jesus. We don’t go along with the world on this. We don’t say, “Well, that’s just the way things are.” To somehow justify not loving other people, no matter the reason, is to squash our creativity and insult God’s grace and ignore the command of Jesus.

No person in the world who runs into a Christian should ever have to wonder if that Christian is a safe person who will love them. No server at a restaurant, no teller at a bank, no classmate at your school, no neighbor on your street, and no member of your church should ever spend one minute wondering if love has disappeared from the earth. People who run into you, people who experience you, should believe in love.

Peace,

Allan

Chosen By God

“Now that you know God — or rather are known by God…” ~Galatians 4:9

Paul is using Old Testament language in this passage. “Known by God” is the same phrase used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for the way God knows Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, and the nation of Israel. The Bible says they are all known by God. And that phrase is mostly used of very important people at very critical junctures in the story. To be known by God is to be chosen by God. It’s God acting on your behalf. It’s God choosing through no merit of your own — you’ve done nothing to deserve it — to bless you and work in you and through you in his salvation story.

The point is that God is the prime figure. He’s the main actor, the initiator. God determines the appropriate time for his Son to come (Galatians 4:4). God sent his Son (4:4). God sent the Spirit into our hearts (4:6). God made us his heirs (4:7). Paul is pointing to what happens when you are grabbed by God, when God’s attention is focused on you.

The Bible is consistently clear on this. Salvation always begins with God, not you.

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one… No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law… Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” ~Romans 3:11-24

People don’t seek God; God seeks people. Humans are so caught up in their sin, they’re so in love with their sin, they don’t seek holiness and righteousness on their own. God always has to make the first move. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

“The one who loves God is known by God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 8:3

In Genesis 18, God promises to bless Abraham and make him a great nation and save all people of the earth through his family. Why? “For I have known him.” God speaks to his people through the prophet Amos and reminds them, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; you only have I chosen.”

God promises David that he will be king and that all David’s enemies will be defeated and that David’s family will reign on the throne forever. And David’s a little shook up. This is overwhelming news and David feels sort of inadequate. And he prays to God:

“Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with people, O Sovereign Lord?” ~2 Samuel 7:18-19

What David knows about himself and about the throne, what David knows about God, is confusing and incomplete. Who am I that this is happening for me? Why am I so chosen and so blessed?

“What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign Lord.” ~2 Samuel 7:20

The answer is simple and profound and comforting. You know me. You chose me. That’s first. And that’s more than enough.

Peace,

Allan

God’s Love Wins

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But completed love drives out fear. ” ~1 John 3:16-17

Confidence because we know that God is love. Blessed assurance about that coming day of glory. No fear because completed love drives out fear. Confidence that God’s love takes care of every single thing I might be worried about.

Everything we know about God and all the things we don’t yet know about God begin and end with his love. There’s nothing we can say about God or his character or his plans for his people without first considering his great love. Love is who God is and love is what God does. And God’s love is unrelenting. It never quits. It never slows down. It never gives up. And it never loses.

That kind of love drives out all fear.

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16

When the holy Creator of Heaven and Earth loves like that — selflessly, sacrificially — there’s nothing to be afraid of. His love gives us confidence because wherever there are problems or issues, wherever things go wrong, wherever things don’t work out, God fixes it with his eternal love.

Where there is rebellion, God doesn’t reject, he accepts. Where there are broken vows, God doesn’t bring justice, he delivers mercy and grace. Where there is conflict, God doesn’t fight, he defends and protects. Where there is sin, God doesn’t condemn, he saves.

“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” ~John 3:17

God is solving every problem, he’s restoring everything that’s broken, with his love.

And he wants you to know it. And experience it. He wants you to believe it and trust it.

Have you messed things up so badly and so much that you question whether or not God’s tired of loving you? Have you suffered so much pain that maybe you question whether or not you really love God? Or can trust that he really is love?

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Romans 8:35-39

God’s love is undefeated, untied, and un-scored upon. God’s love conquers all. It triumphs in the end. His love is more important and more eternal than faith and hope. It stands above all the other Christian virtues. And it’s our number one tool in the toolbox for winning the world for Christ and his Kingdom. God’s love wins.

Peace,

Allan

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