Thoughts on “Loved and Loving: John’s Epistles, Lesson 3


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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thursday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks a very powerful question, “How can we learn to live with the tension of being sinners, and yet being admonished—very strongly in the Bible—not to sin?”

 

Many people will say the correct answer is to strive and try real hard knowing you still will never make it. Just do the best you can. That is pure legalism! At the same time victory can be ours.  The reality of God’s grace literally justifies us. Justification is our freedom from the penalty of sin which is death. It is my title to heaven. Justification is also, “me in Jesus”.  I was in Jesus when He lived a perfect life, so I am saved by His life. Romans 5;10. God also literally sanctifies us. Sanctification is my freedom from the power of sin, which is Christ in me. Colossians 1:26. This is my fitness for heaven.

 

Satan is full of lies on every side. He tells us if we sin too many times we cannot be forgiven. That is a lie! A broken and a contrite heart the Lord will not despise no matter how many times sin has broken that heart before. He also tells us that there will be no victory over sin this side of heaven. That too is a lie! Nothing is too hard for the Lord and with God all things are possible! Hebrews 4 is very clear that we have a Savior who can give us the grace in time of temptation so we can overcome. If we sin, we have a Savior who can give us mercy and forgiveness. This is why Paul in Hebrews exclaims, ‘How can we neglect so great a salvation!”

 

Many will say that legalism is trying to keep the law to very letter. That is not legalism, that is the gospel! Legalism is trying to keep the law in your own power for your own glory. The gospel is keeping God’s law by His power for His glory.

 

This is a lesson God has been trying to teach us from the very beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned they tried covering themselves by making their own clothes out of fig leaves. Notice in Genesis 3, after they made themselves fig leaves and aprons they still felt naked when God approached them. God then made coats of skin for them. This means a totally innocent animal had to die to truly cover their nakedness. Likewise our efforts will never cover our spiritual nakedness but the death of Jesus on the cross will literally cover our shame.

 

Later God tells Abraham I will make you the father of many nations. Even though God has promised, Abraham thinks he is the one who is going to make it happen. So he goes and takes Hagar as his wife. God says, no, that’s not what I was talking about Abraham. I promised and I am going to make it happen. God has Abraham circumcised. Now, to many, circumcision is nothing more than a barbaric ritual. That is because they don’t understand what God was telling Abraham by having him circumcised. God was basically telling Abraham, cast away your flesh. Your flesh and your strength and effort will never accomplish what I have promised to do Myself. By being circumcised Abraham was casting away his confidence in his own flesh and put his confidence in God. Abraham had to circumcise the part of his body he was putting his faith in. Philippians 3:3. God provided the child He had promised in the way He had promised.

 

Adam and Eve were not justified by their own works or even faith. Their faith did not save them. After all they were running from God when He justified them. Romans 5 tells us God justified us when we were still His enemies. Adam and Eve as well as everyone else has been justified by the faith of Jesus and not by their faith. We are justified not by our faithfulness to Him but by His faithfulness to us.

 

Abraham was being sanctified not by his promises but by the promises God made with him. Abraham had to get rid of self so God could literally sanctify him. Abraham was not sanctified by his faith in God but by God’s faithfulness to him.

 

Now we go to Mount Sinai. What we call a lesson on the Ten Commandments is actually God’s biggest lesson on grace! In Exodus 19 God tells the Hebrews I delivered you from Egypt and bare you on eagle’s wings. God is telling them your salvation from bondage is real and literal but you did nothing to make it happen, I did it all! You were totally helpless and I came down and delivered you. It is the same today. Our salvation from the bondage of sin is real and literal but we do nothing to make it happen. God does all the work for us and in us!

 

Properly understanding Exodus 19:5 is the key. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” That word “obey” in the Hebrew is the word “shawmah” which means to be attentive and listen. That makes more sense than just obey, as we don’t obey a voice, we listen to it. The word “keep” is the Hebrew word “shawmar” which means to cherish and tenderly regard. It is the same word in Geneses 2 when Adam is told to keep the garden. Now a covenant in the Bible is a one way promise. Today it may be a two party agreement, but in the Bible it was a promise. So what God is telling the Hebrews and the rest of us in verse 5 is this, “Listen carefully (obey) to my voice, and cherish (keep) my promises (covenant) so that I can make you something very special. Something you could never make for yourself.”  God then goes on and explains through chapter 20 that just as the Hebrews were saved from Egyptian bondage not by their efforts, but by the grace of God, likewise God promises that He will save them from the bondage of other gods, and from the bondage of false worship (commandments or ‘promises” 1-4). God promises them that just as he brought them out of the house of bondage (Exodus 20:2) that He will also free them from the bondage of unhealthy relationships in our homes and our communities (promises 6-10).

 

All of this is accomplished not by our works but by Christ working in and through us. See Romans 8:4, Colossians 1:26-29, Philippians 1:6, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 3:14-21.

 

Even in the Greek and New Testament the word “keep” means the same when speaking of the Commandments. In John 14:15 where Jesus says, “If you love me keep my Commandments”, and in Revelation 14:12 where John writes, “Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” the Greek word “keep” is “tereo” which means to cherish and regard. The grace we find in the New Testament was actually there all along in the Old Testament. Jesus is telling us again in the New Testament what He was telling us Adam and Eve, Abraham, the Hebrews and all the world, “Cherish My promises and I will set you free. And in Revelation 14:12 we see that it is those who cherish His commandments that also Cherish His faith! Those who are kept pure and not defiled by anything other than the pure gospel found in the first 11 verses of Revelation 14 are not even saved by their own faith. They are saved by cherishing Jesus’ promises to be faithful to them!

 

Please let me share a solution for striving against sin. Don’t argue with yourself or anyone else as to if it can be done or not. I don’t debate theology anymore. I am in love with God and my love life is not up for debate! Let’s cherish the promises of Jesus and cling to His faith and not our own. He who has promised is faithful! See Hebrews 10:23 and Hebrews 11:11. It is Jesus who promises and it is Jesus who is faithful to make us just what He wants us to be, whatever that is! All I need to do is look to the Cross and fall in love with Jesus!

 

So while many people want to debate if we can stop sinning or not, I just want to fall in love with Jesus! Instead of wondering if I can be perfect or not I just fall in love with Jesus and cherish His promises that He can make me literally into something very special. Even more special than I even imagine possible! Ephesians 3:14-21.

 

 

I also want to share a quote concerning 1 John 2:1-2 that I believe to be very inspired and encouraging to me personally.

 

“If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” How careful is the Lord Jesus to give no occasion for a soul to despair. How he fences about the soul from Satan’s fierce attacks. If through manifold temptations we are surprised or deceived into sin, he does not turn from us, and leave us to perish. No, no, that is not like our Saviour. Christ prays for us. He was tempted in all points like as we are; and having been tempted, he knows how to succor those who are tempted. Our crucified Lord is pleading for us in the presence of his Father at the throne of grace. His atoning sacrifice we may plead for our pardon, our justification, and our sanctification. The Lamb slain is our only hope. Our faith looks upon him, grasps him as the one who can save to the uttermost, and the fragrance of the all-sufficient offering is accepted of the Father. Unto Christ is committed all power in heaven and in earth, and all things are possible to him that believeth. Christ’s glory is concerned in our success. He has a common interest with all humanity. He is our sympathizing Saviour.  {RH, September 1, 1891 par. 2}  

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