1 John Part 8

We are on to chapter 3, which John opens with encouragement.

1  Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NKJV)

John brings in this passage right after dealing with the issues related to the judgment seat. First he emphasizes how amazing it is that ‘we should be called children of God!’ I recently began watching movie where a poor man is working in a village. He was an illegitimate child and not well respected in the village. One day a man comes along who is a lord in the land and tells the young man he is his father. He immediately shifts from being the poor blacksmith to having a new identity. In the world’s eyes he is now important. Much more, at conversion we received a new identity from a much more important source, from whom we have a new nature.

John then brings home his point that no matter how things look now, when Jesus steps back into our world in all His glory we will be like Him because we shall see Him as He really is, the Lord of glory. Does this contradict what Paul taught about the judgment seat? No, just as all diamonds are diamonds, they still differ in the brilliance they reflect. Look below at what Paul tells us.

41  There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. 42  So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 1 Corinthians 15:41-42 (NKJV)

  45  And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:45 (NKJV) 49  And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 1 Corinthians 15:49 (NKJV)

In these excerpts from 1 Corinthians we see that while we will all bear Jesus image, just as the stars differ in degrees of glory, so also our resurrection bodies will also differ. We will all be diamonds, just with different degrees of brilliance. How do we respond to this? John said if we truly embrace this hope we will purify ourselves. How we do that?

This passage points to the reality Paul highlighted in 2 Corinthians 3:18.

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

We can begin to be changed into His image here and now and the process that will be completed when He appears. If we fix our hope on Him and let this hope anchor our soul (Heb. 6:19) we will be changed here and now to a much greater degree and reflect more of His glory to those around, so that they in turn will be changed by Him. If we truly have our hope anchored in Him we will purify ourselves.

Our purification comes about not by self-effort but by looking to Him. It is not a matter of works we do to sanctify ourselves. Our sanctification grows out of our relationship with Him, it is a by-product, an end. The means is focused time spent in His presence. The result is we have strength in our inner being to choose and walk in right behaviour. So while we do need to purify ourselves, this purification comes about not through a great exertion of willpower, but through a great relationship with Jesus. Again, this comes about through intentional time spent in His presence.

Think about natural relationships. If we spend a lot of time with someone and get to know them we understand something of their habits and ways of acting. I have been married for over three decades. I recognize my wife’s footsteps. Someone else could walk around in my house and try to mimic my wife, I would recognize it wasn’t her.

When we learn to recognize His presence and the way He moves in our life, which we can always do as a believer, we can learn from Him at any time. I find when I am close to Him my thoughts are drawn to prayer and a sense of intimacy during the days. I have a song in my heart and find myself humming or quietly singing and often awaken with a worship song on my lips and running through my mind.

So, are we listening for His footsteps? Are we attuned to His presence? He is here and wants to be known.

1 John Part 7

John completes chapter 2 with two small verses, verses packed with significance. Imagine purchasing a beautiful painting and desiring a frame that would beautifully display it. These two verses display a beautiful truth that we generally miss in reading them. While it is not explicit, and this scriptural truth is generally neglected, verses 28-29 are about the judgment seat of Christ. John did not have to be explicit because this was a foundational truth taught by the early church. In our day we need to be clear because this is rarely addressed. An egalitarian spirit has arisen in the church that says all Christians get in and enjoy everything equally. To teach this is to ignore what Jesus taught in the gospels about different rewards and punishments. It also ignores what Paul plainly taught. Jesus is fair and just, it would be unfair of Him to treat everyone the same because His judgment is based on how we respond to His drawing after conversion. So on to our verses.

28  And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29  If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 John 2:28-29 (NKJV)

How does this relate to the judgment seat? John warns of the danger of Christians being ashamed when they see Jesus. Why would any of us be ashamed? Look at the scriptures below and then I will come back to these two verses.

10  But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11  For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:10-12 (NKJV)

This first passage affirms the reality of the judgment seat of Christ and the need to give an account of our lives. The passage below speaks to what John is addressing but in more detail.

1  For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3  if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4  For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5  Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6  So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7  For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9  Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11  Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5:1-11 (NKJV)

Paul above addresses his desire to step from time into eternity and be clothed with his spiritual body. However he does not want to be naked. What does this mean? In Revelation John said our clothing is our righteous acts.

8  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Revelation 19:8 (NKJV)

To appear naked and ashamed before Jesus is to bring nothing that we have done after salvation. This judgment is not about salvation, it is about Jesus assessing how we have used the gifts (think of the parable of the talents) He has given us. We are each judged on the basis of what we could have done with what we have, how well we fulfilled our calling and purpose. None of us will get it completely right, we will all fall short to some degree, yet we need to press on pursuing His purpose for our lives. We do not want to be those Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 3 who are barely saved. This is so significant that Paul concluded this teaching in 2 Corinthians by speaking of the ‘terror of the Lord’ as a motivator.

So how do we stand unashamed and clothed before Jesus when He appears? John said we practice righteousness. We simply commit to following Jesus and being obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we are sincere in our faith and our commitment to Jesus we have nothing to fear at the judgment seat. Again, we come back to the Gnostic heresy John was refuting, the idea that what we did with our body did not matter. We are called to walk the path of life and the two ditches on either side of this path are legalism and license. The first is an unhealthy focus on laws, rules and regulations that bring us into bondage. The other is a false belief in ‘grace’ and believing that now that we are saved we can do anything with impunity.

Time as we experience it is linear and today’s opportunities will not be available tomorrow. So each day we should set our heart to follow Him and press on. The judgment seat really is a manifestation of His grace. He is worthy of it all!


1 John Part 6

As we continue in chapter 2 John again addresses the errors of Gnosticism.

22  Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24  Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25  And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life. 26  These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27  But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 1 John 2:22-27 (NKJV)

In verses 22-27 John informs us that we have an anointing. If we deny the Anointed One it shows that we are antichrist, opposed to the Anointed One. We cannot claim to be a Christian, an anointed one, and at the same time deny the Anointed One. In dealing with this early Gnostic heresy John brings out this truth and reinforces it by affirming who Jesus is, that He came in the flesh and was/is God. He also points out that to know Jesus is to know the Father. John in essence tells his readers to hold on to what they were first taught.

So what is they/we to hold on to? When we come to the end of this passage it is helpful to remember who John addressed in verse 18 because he is still addressing that audience, and by extension all future hearers. He wrote to the most immature believers (the meaning of ‘little children’ in verse 18) and assured them of an amazing truth. There is an anointing abiding within them that will teach them. John warned them about those who were trying to deceive them. One of the tenets of the Gnostics was the need for an ‘enlightened’ teacher to mentor others into this place, effectively supplanting the Holy Spirit. I am not negating the value of teaching since that is what I am doing by writing. The qualifier is that the true teacher in the body of Christ seeks to point fellow believers to the scriptures, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and in the process release them into their purpose and calling. Control is never an end or means for true teachers walking in their calling. The Gnostics sought to control and create dependency. The true believers sought to help one another learn to lean on and into the Holy Spirit.

This is one reason I reject the role of priests that we have in some segments of His body. They stand in opposition to scripture when they seek to be the go between in the relationship between Jesus and another believer. I see the potential for the same problem in the growing role of ‘spiritual directors’ in the evangelical church. This is further clarified in verse 27 which I have repeated below.

27  But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

John’s point is that via the Holy Spirit Jesus is within us, in our spirits. As we learn to lean into and on Him we are taught by Him. When we do this consistently we are in a place of ‘abiding’ in Him. To illustrate this think of John’s exhortation to ‘walk in the light’ at the beginning of chapter 1. Have you ever walked down the same path in the dark and in the light? How different is the walking experience? Are you more careful in the dark?

Walking in the dark can be a scary thing. I am heading off backpacking this weekend and I know that if I get up during the night and need to go outside I minimally need a flashlight or headlamp. Even then things do not look the same as during the day and it is very easy to experience a sense of unease. We would be wise to consider our day to day walk in a similar ‘light.’ The way we abide in Him is by recognizing throughout our normal day to day activities the danger of functioning in our own wisdom and understanding, independently of the Holy Spirit. When we do this even though we think we are walking in the light our activity is more akin to being out on a mountain peak in the dark with no headlamp. It takes humility to lean into Him. Do we know we need Him?

1 John Part 5

How do we continue to grow and walk in Jesus? John gives us some ‘do not’s.’

15  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. 16  For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. 17  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV)

This passage points out the danger of living from a natural perspective. We cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). The ‘world’ here refers to the natural perspective and system rooted in lust and pride which are byproducts of the fall. The lust of the flesh was stirred up by the serpent when he enticed Eve to desire the forbidden fruit by gazing upon it with her eyes. Pride was sown in man when the choice was made to follow natural reasoning rather than God. These things will perish and we must choose to follow the Father or the worldly system. Everything needs to be evaluated from this perspective (see Mat: 6:33). Many things are enticing and appear to be good, but when looked at from the perspective of eternity they lose both their appeal and value. John is here exhorting us to live with an eternal perspective and pointing out that if our first love is a worldly perspective then the love of our Father is not in us. He is not negating a struggle against sin, rather the embracing of sin.

What John is dealing with here is those who claimed to be born again but lived for the world and rejected the Lord’s values. A clear refutation of Gnostic views. John is showing that the two are incompatible and it is a lie to claim to love the Father but reject His value system. Bear in mind the Gnostic idea that we can sin and love the world because we are above it and what we do with our bodies does not matter. John is showing very clearly that it not only matters, it has eternal consequences.

What John doesn’t talk about here, but something that is a spiritual reality, is that when we love and pursue the world it creates veils over out heart. Yahweh explained this to Ezekiel.

1  Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2  And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 3  “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? 4  Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5  that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.” ’ Ezekiel 14:1-5 (NKJV)

What Ezekiel points out is that if we have idols in our hearts they act as a filter through which we hear from Yahweh. The result, our hearing is distorted.

Having told us what not to do John shifts focus.

18  Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 20  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21  I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

Here we come back to the significance of how John refers to our spiritual maturity. The phrase ‘little children in verse 18 refers to immature believers. In verses 20-21 he again strongly refutes Gnostic influences. These verses show that even at our most immature, as believers we have an inward anointing, the presence of the Holy Spirit, to lead and guide us into truth and away from deception. The other fact is that those who truly have a heart to follow Him will continue in this inward anointing and remain in fellowship with other believers. One thing that it is very helpful to understand here is that Christ literally means ‘the Anointed One.’ Jesus is the Anointed One. The antichrist is literally one who is against (anti) the Anointed One, or opposed to the anointing in us. This applies to both the anointing of intimacy and our call to walk in His power and authority. Through opposition and distraction the enemy (antichrist) does everything he can to stop us from walking in an anointing of power. The enemy also opposes and works against the inward anointing of our relationship with Jesus the Anointed One.

This passage brings out the crucial importance of faith. Whether or not we believe it, we have an anointing, the Anointed One lives within us in our spirit. When we choose to believe and act on this glorious truth we experience the results. When in faith we look to Him we experience the reality of His presence, I and many others can attest to this over and over. He is then able to teach us (1 Cor. 2:10-12). Sitting in His presence to be taught is intentional. When my children were little we live on an acreage next to 80 acres of forest. I used to take them into the forest, have them be quiet and ask them what they could hear. In a similar manner this spring I was in a kayak on a lake. I was aware of birds around me but when I intentionally just became quiet and listened in 2-3 minutes I detected the call of 7 different types of birds. This awareness came from being internally quiet and focused. This is how spiritually we access the inward anointing all believers have.

Are we listening?

1 John Part 4

As we move further into understanding our spiritual age it is helpful to know that some things speak to our situation regardless of our age or level of spiritual maturity.

1  My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2 (NKJV)

Here John is using the term little children to affectionately refer to believers in general. So what can we know about ourselves? John’s desire is that believers would not sin, however he wants us to clearly know that if we sin we have Jesus as our Advocate, He can represent, or ‘re-present’ us to the Father clothed in His righteousness. Why, because He is the propitiation for our sins. This is not a word that is commonly used either in our culture or the church. In fact most modern translations use the term ‘atonement.’ Yet it fails to capture the depth of what propitiation means. Atonement means more the payment of a price for failure, we atone for something. Propitiation is the turning away of someone’s wrath. Jesus took the Father’s wrath on our behalf and so turned it away from us.

John’s point is that while we do not have to sin, when we yield to the desires of our flesh and give in to sin, we can turn to Jesus. His sacrifice was the ultimate act of intercession on our behalf before the Father and creates a continual open access to the throne of grace, the veil has been rent. Jesus already experienced the Father’s wrath for whatever sin we may have committed. If we fall we are to get up and look to Him, not our sin, because Jesus has paid the price for the sins of the entire world.

John moves onto something that many in the modern church now falsely see as optional – obedience!

3  Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:3-6 (NKJV)

John’s point is that if we have truly encountered and become intimate with Jesus something has happened deep within us, we now want to obey Him. There is a major difference between warring with sin out of a desire to walk in obedience and choosing to sin because we see obeying Jesus as optional! The concept of knowing Jesus here is being aware of Him and having a relationship with Him because He lives within us. It is an experiential knowing. As we learn to draw near to Him and know His heart we keep His commandments. All of which are summed up by walking in love through drawing on the grace/strength He supplies.

In the next two verses John’s point is that walking in love is not really a new commandment but has always been part of knowing God.

7  Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. 8  Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:7-8 (NKJV)

John now moves to illustrating what it means to obey Jesus commandments.

9  He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11  But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9-11 (NKJV)

If we do not genuinely care for others we are not walking in love. This does not negate the place of disagreement and conflict; that happens, it negates the place of hatred and a refusal to pursue reconciliation and wholeness. John’s references to light and darkness in verses 7 – 11 take us back to Gnosticism. The Gnostics taught the need to be ‘enlightened’ and this happened through a relationship with an ‘enlightened’ teacher. John started addressing this in chapter 1:5-7 when he told us God is light. He reinforces that point here. The true light is Jesus and He is already shining. We need not look for some special teacher, we only need to look to Jesus and know that if we are in a right relationship with Him we will love our fellow believers, evidence that we already have the true light, Jesus, within us.

If we walk in the light there is nothing in us to cause others or ourselves to stumble. The enemy has no foothold in us because we are being constantly cleansed by Jesus shed blood and are thus a light to others also.

John now gets into an overview of spiritual maturity. This is our assessment tool, the first being are we walking in love. Some may object that we are not to focus on ourselves, I agree we are to focus on Jesus. However, if we are seeking to find a destination on a map the starting point is knowing where we are currently. The maps in malls are of little use without that vital piece of information, ‘You are here.” In fact Paul exhorted the Corinthians to examine and test themselves to see if they were really believers.

5  Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV)

One way we test ourselves is by the truth of scripture to our lives.

12  I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13  I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. 14  I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one. 1 John 2:12-14 (NKJV)

The phrase ‘little children’ is the term of affection John uses to refer to all believers. His point is that if we have been born again our sins have been forgiven, period! While questioning whether our sins can really be forgiven because they are so awful may masquerade as humility it is very simply pride. What else could we label a refusal to believe His sacrifice was sufficient for ‘our’ sin?

Moving on from all believers John addresses fathers (this includes mothers), those who are spiritually mature, then young men (this includes young women); those who are growing but have not yet matured. John finally addresses ‘little children’ using a Greek term that does in fact refer to the very young or immature. The NKJV translates them as the same in English but the term ‘little children’ is different in verses 12 and 13.

If we look at the whole passage John is telling us that we all have our sins forgiven for the sake of Jesus name. That is, the Father is honoring His covenant to forgive sins through repentance and faith in Jesus. The spiritually mature, the fathers and mothers, are those who have come to a place of maturity through intimacy with the Lord. They understand power but have experienced and focus on relationship because this, our highest calling (Phil. 3:10), reaches back and touches eternity and the Father’s heart desire to have fellowship with those He created in His image. The young men and women are those believers who have not reached the maturity level of the fathers and mothers and whose focus is on power rather than intimacy. The immature believers (little children of verse 13) have known the Father in that they have encountered Him through salvation but they have not yet begun to move on to intimacy. This may be people who have just been born again or individuals who have been believers for years but have never truly pursued a place of intimacy with Him.

We each need to determine where we are at, not as a basis for spiritual pride but as an assessment tool to help us know what to pursue and whether we are pursuing. The one dynamic of spiritual maturity is that we only remain mature by continuing to grow. As Peter wisely wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

17  You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18  but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:17-18 (NKJV)