Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” Says The Teacher. “Utterly Meaningless! Everything Is Meaningless.” +

Dear children,

There was a popular bumper sticker for a while that said, “excrement happens”.   Of course, it used a much more colorful word than “excrement”, but I hope you get the drift.  It conveyed the notion that life comes at us by random chance, and that some of that random chance is not so good, and it just “happens” without any reason or purpose.   That sticker reveals a worldview that is inconsistent with the view that I hope you adopt in your short lives.

We know that things do happen to everyone in life.  So when things happen to you, the question you will need to ask is, how will I respond?  And how you respond will depend on your basic philosophy of life.  And this “philosophy” will revolve around a sense of purpose.  The temporariness and apparent randomness of our lives will threaten our sense of purpose.  If this life you are living right now is eternal, then that changes everything. If they are not eternal, then, “excrement happens” is all you’ve got.  Your body will die. And the few hours, days and years you spent occupying it will have been payed out like so much money in your pocket; and then it will be gone.

Some will spend all of their time in the futility of simply reacting to circumstances.  Every decision they make in life will be in reaction to external forces.  For others, their purpose will be to experience thrills, sex, and adventures. And still, for others, it will be spent to start and sustain a career, get married, buy a house and raise a family.  But in the end, all of these endeavors have one thing in common, they end in death. Meaningless, says the preacher, utterly meaningless.

But I pray that you will embrace the only purpose that makes sense of it all.  I pray that purpose would undergird whatever kind of life you live. You must understand that the only way you can grasp this is to know that you are not merely flesh, but rather that you are flesh and spirit.  While your bodies will be wasting away, you can know that inwardly you will be being renewed day by day in your spirit.  Your eyes will not be fixed on what is seen but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.  Your purpose will not be to breathe air and obey the whims of your flesh, but rather your purpose will be to do the work which God has prepared in advance for you to do.  Your goal and purpose will not be to simply enjoy life but rather to hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant” in the everlasting.

As I enter the autumn of my years I understand the words in the book of Ecclesiastes more and more. Solomon laments that life is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  And no matter what path you choose, you can know that as the end draws near it will all be meaningless unless you have grabbed onto the eternal purpose that can only be found in Jesus the Christ.

I pray that at an early age you will commit to doing just that, grabbing onto Jesus with all of your might.  I pray that you will be able to defend the few hours that have been allotted you from the attack of meaninglessness that comes in the form of promises to the flesh.  I pray that as your life comes to an end you will be able to say, “I served my Lord” as you ready yourself to meet Him, and not, “I had a lot of ultimately meaningless fun”.   May our Lord grant you the ability to serve Him with steady devotion.  Amen

Your father

Read:

Eclesiastes 1

Ephesians 2

2 Corinthians 4

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*Be An Encourager XX

Dear children

When I was about fifteen or so, a friend called me on the phone while another friend listened in to our conversation. He brought up the friend who was listening and I had a lot of negative things to say about him. A little later the friend who was listening in called doing the same thing.  I’ll never forget that.  But worse, this didn’t seem to phase them. Nothing changed, as far as I could tell, between us.  I’m not sure whether that would have been the case had the tables been turned.  That’s because they were better people than I was.  I wish I’d known that then.  The Bible tells us to let nothing be done through strife or vainglory but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.  (Phil 2:3)  This is not a command for church life, but a command for life in general, and you would do well to make every effort to live it out.

When I was young, and even when I was much older, I was like a black hole.  My entire worth, life’s meaning, and all my effort in life revolved around the gaining of praise and appreciation from my fellow man.  That was a sad state. But worse, it was a one-way street.  I never praised another for their accomplishments. I only sought praise. It simply never occurred to me that others might have had, to some degree, the same need or desire. And even if I had seen some reason to praise someone else, I wouldn’t have.  I saw the success and unique abilities of others as a threat to my own place in this world, and the last thing I would have done would be to encourage anyone. I actually found it to be strangely comforting to hear negative things about other people in general, and about my friends in particular. Everything in life, you see, was on a scale.  And so it was my mission to bring everyone down to my level.  I can tell you, dear children, that a mentality like that will bring you pain and hardship.  It will also bring those around you pain and hardship.  Not only will you not ever really like yourself that much, you won’t be able to like anyone else either.  And it will cut you off from some of the most valuable life’s lessons that you could ever learn in being a decent human being.  But worse than that, it will cut you off from learning how to love and be loved.

I somehow reasoned then that if I was better at everything, or could hide it when I wasn’t, then I would be more liked by others. I would have worth. It was of course nonsense, yet I believed it.  I had no one to help me work through these deficiencies in life skills.  I didn’t even actually know I had any deficiencies, and I’m sure if I had known I would have worked tirelessly to hide them.  Looking back, however, I now realize that they were like neon signs to the world around me.  So if I have anything to do with it, you will not suffer the pain and sorrow that I did because of this warped view of yourself among the people of this world, and reality.  So here are a few pointers:

First, you have your own gifts and strengths that were given to you from God.  As life goes on it will become ever more clear what your particular strengths and abilities are.  And God didn’t put those gifts in you just for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of others.  People around you need what God has given you.  As you discover these gifts, it’s up to you to develop them.  It’s also up to you to redeem them so that they will be put to use in God’s kingdom and not Satan’s.

Second, others will have similar gifts as you, and some will be better at exercising them than you will be while others will not.  That’s a fact of life.  If you have a gift in music, and you decide to exercise that gift on the piano, know that there will always be a better piano player out there somewhere.  Let that person inspire you.  He is not a threat.  If that person happens to be your friend, then esteem him as the better player.  Be delighted in your heart for your friend when he excels.  You do have control over such things.  It’s fine to be challenged by your friend to be better yourself, for the purpose of developing your gift.  Avoid pride and competition with your friend for vainity’s sake. Such will not work righteousness in your heart, and it will not develop the depth of your friendship.

When I was young I raced motorcycles.  On one particular day, a friend of mine was in first place and I was in second and he fell.  But he was far enough in front of me that he had time to almost get up and get going again before I could pass him.  So when I approached him I didn’t go around him like I should have, rather I purposely ran into him in order to knock him back down.  I couldn’t have my friend, of all people, beating me in a race. That’s the kind of guy I was. I should have been happy for him to win fairly.

Third, help your friends discover and develop their God-given gifts.  Look for people’s strengths and point them out.  Build them up at every opportunity.  Help them in their weaknesses too.  But train yourself in sincerity.  Flattery is ugly and it has no place in you.  Always check your motivations in everything you do. Never lie to a person about their abilities in order to gain their favor. It’s my hope that you’ll have enough confidence in yourself, and your own gifts, to not seek or need to use such trickery to get someone else to approve of you.

Fourth, not everyone is going to be your best friend forever.  I can even guarantee you that there will be some out there who might not like you that much, even though they don’t really even have a good reason.  They may not even know themselves why.  And you might feel the same way about someone else too.  This is life.  Accept it without malice.  Decide to love that person anyway doing nothing in retribution for a feeling they may have about you that they cannot even help themselves.  You will not win everyone you meet as a true friend and that’s fine.  That’s just the way it is.

Fifth, and mostly, encourage all at every opportunity.  Some are gifted by God as encouragers.  For others it takes work and we never get that good at it.  But nevertheless, be on the lookout for things to encourage others about.  And remember, do it with sincerity. Not only does everyone like being encouraged, they need it, just as you do.  Expect nothing in return for your encouragement.  I’m sure that there are others out there like me who couldn’t give an encouraging word if their life depended on it.  They need it more than anyone else I think.

Finally, beyond God, people are everything.  They, like you, bear God’s image.  Your relationship with people will be a big determiner of whether or not you will live in joy.  Boasting and showcasing your gifts, which God gave you, will not bring you joy, only pride masquerading as joy.  Be joyful when you see what God has given to someone else, or what God is doing in another’s life.  Be satisfied with what God has given you.  Life is very momentary.  The pride of life and the lust of the flesh lie to us.  They promise a joy that never comes.  They are like the thirsty man drinking saltwater.  It only makes him want more until it kills him.

I pray that you, dear children, will be humble of heart.  I pray that you would work hard at developing the gifts that God has given you, and that you will be generous with your gifts, and most of all that you would be generous at building others up.

Your father.

 

I Have Food That You Know Nothing About ++

Dear children,

In John chapter four there is the account known as Jesus talking to “the woman at the well”. The part of the story that I like is when Jesus’ disciples return from their food-buying expedition into town. It seems that lots of things are going on around Jesus, and His disciples are worried about Him nourishing his body. But he replied to them in a tiniest of parables. He said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”   But the disciples didn’t hear a “parable”.  They heard a stated fact.  So Jesus explained, My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 

In your christian lives you will have ample opportunity to work on one project or another with your church. And you can have a great time with your church family in these outreaches or whatever.  But there will be those times when you do something, almost on a whim, and it turns out to be amazing and satisfying.  You will realize that you have just been involved in a sort of miracle, something that cannot be attributed to mere happenstance.  Here’s one of the few examples in my own life.

Many years ago, on a warm summer’s afternoon I was driving from Nashville to Chattanooga.  Just out of Nashville I saw a man hitchhiking.  Without much thought I made the decision, just as I was passing him, to pick him up. I stopped the car and he began to run toward me. As he approached the car I got a better look at him, and realized that he was quite scary looking.  For just a moment I contemplated peeling out of there before he could get in.  But I didn’t.

He was quiet as we drove along.  His head was shaved, and he had lots of scars and tattoos.  He said he that he had just gotten out of prison and was trying to get to Florida.  When I asked him what he was in prison for, he dryly answered, “murder”, as he stared emotionless out the window.

As we drove his eyes began to grow heavy as he fought sleep.  I told him he could recline his seat if he wanted, but he would not allow himself that kind of vulnerability with a stranger, and I understood that.  So I was quiet.

Wanting to witness to him in some way, and being a little afraid myself, I decided to plug in a praise and worship cassette.  I thought that might at least ease his mind a little in his weariness.  As we drove I began to get an inkling that I ought to buy this man some food. And so an internal struggle ensued  in my thoughts about the matter.  All I had on me, you see, was a credit card, and I didn’t want him to know that I had it.  After all, I was already thinking about my plan if it turned out that he wanted to commandeer my car in Chattanooga.  So I put the matter to rest. I would not be stopping… or so I thought.

Somewhere in rural Tennessee between Nashville and Chattanooga, on a Sunday afternoon, where businesses were scarce, most being closed for Sunday, and with soft worshipful music playing, a sudden loud and continuous noise and vibration started abruptly underneath.  I came to a stop and learned that, though it was still holding air, the outer part of the tire had come apart.

It so happened that we were right at an exit off the freeway, so I followed the ramp up to the stop sign as I contemplated a tire change.  But as I came to a stop I saw two things that changed everything.  An open tire store, and right across the street a Golden Corral  that were open.  This was a rural stretch of I-24.  It was over 20 years ago, it was on a little two lane road that happen to intersect the freeway, and there weren’t lots of businesses around.  There was just these two as far as I can remember.  But what is important is the fact that I then realized that God wanted this man fed, and He was going to feed him, and I was going to be the one who did it.  That was impeccably clear to me as I rolled to a stop.

The whole experience became a wonderful one.  It is an experience that I think only a Christian can appreciate.  It was the maker of the heavens and the earth, the creator of all things, deigning to use me in his work.  I can tell you that there’s nothing like it in this entire world.  I took my car into the tire shop and told them to replace the two rear tires, then I offered the hungry soul with me an all-you-can-eat feast.  It was a special treat to watch that man eat, and to see the excitement in his eyes.

But I too was fed in more ways than a physical meal for my physical body.  I was fed by doing God’s will and his work.  And when we are fed in that way, it is better than the best of the best in gourmet feasts.  Most of us, I’m convinced, have very few opportunities like this to actually see God’s hand move.  But I am also convinced that it need not be quite so rare.  That day, I missed a golden opportunity.  Today I would have no problem to almost immediately strike up a conversation concerning the Gospel.  Then, as a new Christian, I was afraid.  I don’t know why.  As I’ve introduced the Gospel to more and more hurting people it has gotten much easier to do.

That day was a blessing to me more than it was to that poor man.  He didn’t hear of God’s redeeming love from me that day, as he should have.  But I caught a glimpse of God’s sovereign hand at the price of two tires and two meals.  I have learned since then to reject, outright, the notion that the Gospel is preached without words.  There are many many organizations and people who expend themselves in alleviating human suffering.  But that’s all they do.  Preaching the Gospel is the only hope that the cause of that suffering, which is man’s unredeemed heart, will be dealt with.  Jesus said that fixing up the outside of a man was nothing more than whitewashing a tomb full of dead men’s bones.  Jesus deals with the heart through the Good News of reconciling man with God.

I pray for you, therefore, dear children, as you walk through this life that you will feast on doing the will of him who sent you and finishing his work.  The field is indeed white for the harvest, so I pray that you will go forth, and reap a barnful of food that you will find eternally satisfying.

Your father

Legalism, The False Plague +

Dear Children

Legalism is a bad thing because it is of the flesh which leads to death.  It’s based not only on the assumption that you can earn your way into heaven, but also that you must.  Combine this with the fact that man has an affinity and a love for all things of the flesh, and legalism becomes the basis for religion in general. As I’ve said before, man is by his very nature religious because God has made us as spiritual beings.  But like all good gifts that God has woven into our hearts, the gift of spirituality becomes corrupted by, as John pointed out, “…the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life“.   Every person knows deep down inside that this life is not all there is and we all long for purpose beyond our flesh.  Even militant evolutionist and atheist longs for more.  That longing generally leads to a works based religion of some kind.

Christianity, however, is not based on the flesh, which is to say that it’s not based on works.  This is what makes Christianity unique in Religions.  It’s not based on man’s own ability to be good enough, but rather on the recognition that he is not good enough and never will be.  Religion, on the other hand is generally based on giving the illusion that certain rules are being followed, and by following these rules, righteousness is earned, and once it’s earned, it is showcased. Pride is the driving force. This is not the way of Christianity.  To be sure, Christianity does not escape the corruption of the flesh.  Christians can be just as plagued with the pride of their own works as those in the next religion.  We know this because Jesus found it worthy of addressing in the sermon on the mount. He admonished us to not “practice our acts of righteousness before other people“.  But the more real that God becomes in the mind of the believer, the more he realizes that the only affirmation that counts is that which comes from God.  Every man knows in his own heart that he is not good. And while we are liable to think that we can fool our fellow man, if God is real to us in our hearts, we also know that we haven’t fooled Him.  The more real God becomes to us then, the more humble we become, both before God and before our fellow man.

A research poll was recently published which indicated that many people were abandoning Christianity.  While this poll would seem to indicate that “Christianity” is in trouble, we can know that this isn’t the case.  Sure, many people are walking away from an old religion tagged with the name of “christianity”, but no true Christian is abandoning his faith.  I can say this with certainty because it would be quite impossible for a Christian to abandon his faith.  What we are witnessing is a cultural shift.  Christianity has become unpopular in culture, and those who have been beholden to culture all along are simply following their true love.  Works based religion is a heavy load, so if it isn’t a necessary part of our righteousness before our fellow man, why in the world would anyone bother?

Yet there are those who still want to retain the name of Christianity, while at the same time follow this world.  Such people are easy to spot because they will hate true Christianity just like the culture does and will even go so far as to call it un-Christian.  Pay no attention to their antics.  We must trust in the Word.

At first glance Christianity is a dichotomy of sorts. On the one hand we call the world and ourselves to righteous living. And on the other hand we proclaim that all our righteous living is still insufficient to earn our way into heaven. We teach that it is by grace alone that we are saved. But with a deeper look, it isn’t a dichotomy. God makes those who are His new creatures, and as such, we begin to love righteousness. We at the same time realize that we are not righteous, and that that unrighteousness brings about eternal circumstances. It is in this realization that Grace is one of the sweetest words we have.

In living this out, however, we must realize a few things.  First, that we have in us a propensity to justify our sin because of this grace.  That is a lie.  We should fight such inclination with all diligence, and seek to live righteous lives according to what God calls righteous.

Second, we must, at the same time, work at our on sanctification while not associating that work with our salvation.  The salvation is a given.  Any “works” we perform, whether they be to help our fellow man or in mortifying our own flesh, are a result of that salvation, not the cause of it.  There is nothing we can do, but there is much that we ought to do.  And with the spirit of Jesus living in us, there is much we’ll want to do.

Third, don’t forget that man–and that includes you–loves the praise of his fellow man.  And being a good Christian in the Christian community will gain you some of that praise.  Accept it with humility, but also guard yourself from working for it, for to work for it is a sin.  Check your motivations.  Are you wanting to tell others about what you are doing… in other words, are you wanting to display your works, so that you will earn their praise?  Our tendency is to do just that.  There are entire cults built on works like this who have convinced themselves that their works-based religion is what sets them apart from true Christianity.  Pay no attention to anyone who tries to tell you that they have found the right way because they are “doing” the work.  It is vanity.

Finally, Jesus said that it was better that He leave, and for the Holy Spirit to come.  Learn to discern.  Jesus has given you the lighter yoke.  If you are burdened with a heavy, works-based burden, you have taken on the wrong yoke.  He will give you rest.  His burden is light.  Doing His “work” is not toil, but pleasant, with grace in failure.

I pray for you dear children that God would work “in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” And I pray that you would take on and feel the lightness of his yoke as you rest in His salvation.  It really is an amazing thing, and He is worthy of all praise, honor and glory for that salvation which he worked on the cross and in His resurrection.

Your father

False Freedoms And Freedom Indeed +

Dear children,

You will hear words like “liberty” and “freedom” bandied about.  But these words more times than not are sorely misunderstood in this age.  They imply something that is impossible, which is that man can be free.  But man is not free.  Life itself binds us.  So we are left to choose one set of freedoms over others, all of them coming with their own set of snares and constraints.

Kris Kristofferson penned the now famous words, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” some years ago, and yes, the freedom he was referring to is a kind of freedom.  Having nothing to lose, nothing to claim as your own, nobody to love, or to love you, or no material possessions that can be used as leverage against you does provide for a sort of freedom.  A homeless panhandler, for example, might have that kind of freedom.  Since he has nothing to loose, no one can threaten to take anything away if he doesn’t abide in some kind of restraint?  Yet, in many ways he’s not free. He’s not free to go home, or to know the joy of providing for a family, for example.

And then there’s Marxism. It promises a sort of freedom.  This is the freedom that comes with being a ward of someone or something much more powerful than yourself.  It’s much like the freedom you experienced growing up in my house. You were free from the worries of providing for yourself food, shelter and clothing. In the same way, the freedom that Marxism promises is one of security. Not that I believe it can ever deliver, but many believe it can.

For some hedonism is liberty.  Our bodies want to sleep, be fed, be comfortable, and most of all to experience pleasure.  But to run after these things without constraint is self destructive.  Our bodies, or as the Bible puts it, our flesh, is by its nature self destructive.  It can never be satisfied.  It can never get enough of what it craves constantly.   At some point our bodies want to sedate themselves with drugs and alcohol to take away the pain brought on by self-destruction, which causes even more self-destruction.  It’s a downward spiral.  Yes, there is a freedom in casting off all restraint, but in the end it leads to death.

For others still, lots of money is freedom.  They cast off the restraint of slothfulness that the body attempts to impose, and they work really hard in hopes of great reward.  They are then free to have nice things.  But they are not free to be satisfied with those nice things, or to stay home from work.

There are a lot of freedoms that we can chase after, but in the end there is no real freedom.  In the end we will live out what Solomon called, “vanity of vanities”.

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun? ” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 )

All freedoms have merit.  Who doesn’t want to be comfortable?  Who desires to toil day and night only to be exploited by the lords of the market place?  Who wants to be poor?  But all of these “freedoms” involve submission to masters, none of which are righteous.  But there is a righteous master to whom we can submit.  His name is Jesus.  And He is a ruler, make no mistake about that.

The Bible tells us that this ruler came to set the captives free.  This ruler tells us that in Him freedom can be found, and when we find that freedom, we will be free indeed.  So the question is, what is this freedom that Jesus offers?  To answer, why don’t we first take the scriptures on their face value.  They too tell us that we are not “free”.

I’ll show you two examples. In the first one Jesus asks us to throw off the heavy yoke.  We must understand that that word, “yoke” means that there is a master with the reigns to whom our will must bend.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus is pointing to a freedom here, but not freedom in the sense that man normally thinks of it.  He is not saying that we are able to cast off everything that constrains, for that would be impossible in this fallen world.  He offers us an exchange.  Beware therefore of anyone who ever implies total freedom, for such does not exist, and an awful snare awaits those who believe such things.

The second example points to another kind of master, the shepherd:

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  (John 10:21)

Jesus is our shepherd, which means He is our authority.  We are free to graze in His pastor, but we are not free to graze wherever our flesh demands.  But Jesus does speak of freedom, and even a “freedom indeed”.  So what is that freedom?  If Jesus came to “set the captives free”, then what are we captive to?  The answer is “sin”.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  (Jn 8:35-36)

In this passage Jesus is in a discourse on the subject of slavery.  Those who opposed him were claiming to be free.  They rejected Jesus’ assertion that they were slaves.  But the slavery of which Jesus spoke was worse than simply being a slave to an earthly master.  One might hope to eventually break such bonds as those.  But no man can break the bonds of sin.  He is a slave to it for life except that he surrender to the good master, his very creator, who alone has the keys to unlock those chains.

Dear children, I would that you not go chasing after the things of this world which make empty promises, but that you would chase after your Heavenly Father.  It is my desire for you that you seek the face of God, and that eternity would ever be in your sights.  I pray that you would put Jesus’ yoke on you, and that you would answer to His commands so that you might experience joy in this life that cannot be taken away or stolen by circumstances.  I pray that you would fix your eyes, not on what is seen but on what is unseen, for what is seen with your eyes is all temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal; they will not pass away!

In our hearts, we want freedom.  And I pray for you dear children that you would find the kind of freedom that will make you free indeed, that we may enjoy it forever.  Amen.

Your father.

God Is Love, And Perfect Love Casts Out Fear X

Dear children

You, being human, have a propensity to see what you want to see and to not see what you don’t want to see.  We all have this fault to one degree or another.  I know I do.  The singer Paul Simon wrote a popular song many years ago with the lyrics: “All lies and jests, Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”  I think Paul got this one right, especially when it comes to how we see our creator.  We see this truth playing itself out every day as we watch our world create a God who is more the way we want to see Him while ignoring those things about Him that we don’t want to be true.  We, ourselves, must in fact resist turning the God of the scriptures into a god of our own making.  Our carnal desires make us want a god who is okay with our sin, a god whom we don’t need to fear no matter what evil we’ve been up to. But fortunately for all of mankind, our desires don’t dictate reality.  If the Bible says repeatedly that we ought to fear God, ignoring all those verses that reiterate this by misinterpreting one verse that would, on the surface at least, seem to suggest that God is not to be feared, would not be wise; as in, “The-fear-of- the-Lord-is-the-beginning-of-wisdom” not wise.  (Prov 9:10)

To help us ignore most of what the Bible tells us about fearing God, there is a go-to verse that we often hear quoted. “Perfect love casts out fear“.  Here is the passage from which it is taken:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1st John 4)

This raises a couple of questions.  First, are we supposed to fear God or not? Second, why should we fear a loving God?

The answer is yes, we are supposed to fear God. And second, yes, we need to fear Him. But we fear Him, not because of His love, but because of our lack of it, as this passage in its true meaning beautifully points out.  So let us look more closely at the passage, shall we?

In a passage like this, with such a rich emphasis on love, it would behoove us to understand what is meant by that very word.  That, in itself, will be a life-long project for you.  Grasping the love of God is no small feat.  But this passage gives us a good hint. It is not an accident that God’s proclamation of love for those who are His is almost always in the context of the cross.  In this passage we are told,  “In this the love of God was made manifest among us”. This is a proclamation of love. But following are these words, “…and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  This “propitiation for sin” was paid on the cross.

So, if we can look past our biases and assumptions we can see that this passage is about two things: 1)our love for God, 2) and our love for our fellow man, neither of which has any hope of being perfect in this world and in our fallen lives. It is that word, “perfect”, that has caused many a soul to set this verse against what the rest of the Bible teaches.  In verse 12 we see the first use of it which has to do with our love for others brought about by His love abiding in us.  ( if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.)  The second use is in verse 17, and again, it refers to our love, not Gods.  And in the next verse we see it for the third time. It is used after,  “Perfect love casts out fear“.  After the semicolon the same point is restated, “…whoever fears has not been perfected in love”.  The “whoever”, by the way, is not referring to God, but us.  So this ought to raise a question.  Do you love God perfectly?  Are you perfected in love?  If you can answer yes, then you need not fear God, and the entire rest of the Bible can be ignored by you because you have already been perfected in love.  I, on the other hand, still fear God, and until I am removed from this sinful body, and stand before the judgement seat of Christ clothed in His righteousness, I don’t see that changing.

This is as clear as day to me. In this very passage, in fact, the topic of God’s judgement is raised. But we are told that we can have confidence for the day of this judgement because of God’s love which is manifested in our increasing love for God, our brethren, and even for this lost world. But perfect love is not based on having good feelings toward others as much as it is compassion. Perfect love does not dictate that we bless sin, nor bless people in their wicked ways. It does, on the other hand, dictate that we warn, just as Jesus warned repeatedly during His ministry here on earth. It dictates that we be a light that shines forth and illuminates sin. That is perfect love.

In the end, pulling a Bible verse from the context of the rest of the Bible, and then using it for the purpose of–in the words of Paul Simon–disregarding the rest,  is unwise.  If you study this passage you will see that it is in complete agreement with the rest of scripture’s command to fear God, so we should, therefore, fear God.  We ought not, by the command of scripture, create a god in our minds that need not be feared.

I pray for you my dear children, that you would understand who God is, and that you would love and fear him, for that is right.  I pray that you would worship Him in spirit and truth, the true Him, and not a made-up version of Him that you find more appealing.  May our Father in heaven bring this about in your minds and hearts as you grow in revelation and love for your Father and Savior.

Your father

 

Believers believe And Skeptics Are Skeptical. That’s What They Do. +

Dear children,

I must tell you that many times in my Christian walk my faith has been shaken.  And, I’ve learned a few things in the process that I’d like to pass along.

First, remember that your faith is faith.  We do not have faith in what we can see but what we can’t see.  If we could see God in the same sense that we can see the sun, we wouldn’t need faith, we’d just look up and there He would be.  But while we must have faith that God exists, it isn’t a blind faith, or a faith that we have in spite of evidence to the contrary.  No, there are millions of reasons to have faith in God based on lots of evidence and sound arguments.  But, as the scriptures point out, all the reasons in the world are not enough if God does not grant us the gift of faith.  As His enemies, man will look for any reason to reject God, reasonable or not.

I make this point so that you will do every thing in your power to keep your faith.  There will be times when it will be weak, or even seemingly non-existent.  It is then that you need to contend for it.  You must fight.

It’s much easier to be a sceptic and simply look for a way to pick everyone else’s world apart while at the same time having faith that there is no truth in your own world.  The sceptic doesn’t have to bother with making his beliefs consistent.  He can attack Christians for believing that there is absolute truth on one day, then accuse them of lying on another day.  He can talk about how important it is that all be well educated in one breath and then in another insist that life is ultimately meaningless.  He can decry that children are unhealthy while doing everything in his power to make sure their slaughter is legal.  He is a sceptic.  His basis doesn’t have to have a worldview or belief.  His basis is that there is no basis, and on that basis he seeks simply to question and destroy the basis of other’s.

You will know this person when you meet him.  He has questions, but he doesn’t want answers.  His questions are not based in a search for answers, indeed he doesn’t even believe there are any.  Rather his questions are nothing more than darts aimed at your faith.  He doesn’t offer anything in replacement of your faith, he simply doesn’t want you to have faith, and for good reason.

The Bible says that you–if you are in Christ–are the light of the world and that light exposes evil deeds.  All humans know deep down that there is a God, and they know that they are sinners.  So they spend their lives suppressing that truth in order to anesthetize themselves against their ultimate destiny.  If they can snuff out your light, it will sooth their inner souls concerning that eternal destiny.  They will be tireless in their efforts to reinforce the lies that they have bought into in order to serve their sinful flesh and its desires.

But peace with God is worth more than any temporary and shallow experience that your flesh promises to offer.  This peace is not temporary.  It cannot be stolen.  It’s not based on your own abilities to earn it.  It’s not based on your beauty, intellect or riches, all of which are fleeting.  It will be with you in good times and bad and to the end of your days.  It will allow you to look back at your life and say, it is well.

Dear children, I so desire that you will find the pearl of great price; the joy found in peace with God.  To be cynical, angry and bitter, and at war with God is the easy road.  To follow your heart is all that is required.  It’s downhill all the way.  But to follow God will bring you Joy and peace, which I pray that you will wear like a garment throughout your lives.

Your father

God’s Love Is Not Like Man’s Love ?+

Dear children,

I confess my shortcomings.  I have the common deficiency of man in that I am not qualified to discuss God’s love, for who can know it?  It would be a worthy life’s goal in fact for you to actually search out the depth of His love in hope that you might understand a sliver of it.  For if you gain just a sliver, you will have exceeded your father.  Still, there are a few things concerning God’s love that I do feel qualified to address. The first one is mainly what God’s love is not.

While we humans think we understand a few things about love, in reality what we understand more than anything is our love of self.  For example, consider Elvis Presley’s hit song, “Love Me Tender”.

Love me tender,
love me sweet,
never let me go.
You have made my life complete,
and I love you so.

It’s a pretty little song; moving in fact.  And we can understand that there is an affection and attraction that occurs between a man and a woman, and that these attractions hold a special place in our hearts.  But even in this kind of love, when our emotions and chemistry threaten to whisk us away, much of what we experience is the love of self.

We can kind of gather this from the writer’s lyrics.  We can pick up on his obvious fixation on himself by asking a few questions like, What if she didn’t return his love with sweet and tender love?  What if she actually couldn’t complete his life?  What if she wasn’t pleasing to his eyes?  In fact, what if she did everything she could to resist his love and demonstrate to him every chance she got that she hated him?  Would he still love her? Probably not, because any man would love himself too much to put up with a response like that.  There’s no return in it.  Men and women are more in the habit of abandoning the one whom they once “loved” than they are in loving the unlovable.  But people don’t abandon those they love as much as they abandon the people who can no longer please the one person they love more than anything else in the world, themselves.

It’s probably as difficult for us to grasp who we are in Christ as it is to grasp who we are without Him.  We look at ourselves and cannot see the abhorrence of our sin, and our filthiness before a holy and righteous God.  In fact, in our sinful condition, we reject the very notion that we are abhorrent.  But in doing so we miss the love of God.  It is a normal thing, as opposed to a fascinating thing, that a guy named Ken would pursue the beautiful and talented Barbie, seeking to gain the paradise that her presence promises.  That is the natural and normal way.  But what if Ken pursued the ugliest woman he could find, one who not only hated him, but cheated on him every chance she got?  What would be “beautiful” about that love?  The answer? Much! Even if man doesn’t have the eyes to see it.

Now consider if Ken was a rich king, and he transforms this wretched woman into a radiant bride at the cost of his very own life?  By seeing it this way a different beauty begins to emerge.  It’s not like the handsome prince who pursues and eventually wins the beautiful bride.  He pursues and wins the worst among us, and then redeems them.  It is at this juncture that we can begin to see that the more wretched the woman, the more beautiful His ultimate love turns out to be.  So in the future, when you read the words, “while we were yet sinners”, keep this in mind.  It is, to your father, five of the most beautiful and loving words in the entire Bible.

Indeed, a formidable barrier to understanding God’s love is man’s own love for himself. This love makes us see ourselves more highly than we ought because we tend to see ourselves as deserving God’s love.  But we do not.  So I say this in the most loving way I know how,  God does not love you because you are special, or because you deserve it.  There simply isn’t anything in scripture that would suggest that He does.  If you were special enough to deserve God’s love, then you would have every reason to boast.  But the scriptures are clear, no man has any reason whatsoever to boast.

So that raises a good question. Why does God love any of us?  I have no idea.  All I know is that I was a picture of the wretched woman who hated and despised Him, and He loved me.  We can also ask, why did God love Jacob and hate Esau?  But it would be a futile question.  Pray that God would show you His love.  Once you understand it you will begin to see, I think, that God’s love is not quite so cheap as to be earnable by any man.

This brings us to a third and last thing concerning God’s love that’s difficult to talk about in this day.  God does not love everyone unconditionally.  You will hear it said quite a bit that He does, but it isn’t true.  What is true is that there is no condition by which we can earn His love, and we could say that God loves everyone in some sense. He sends rain on the righteous and the wicked alike for example.  But to say that God loves everyone unconditionally cannot be found in scripture.  The real question that you need to settle is this one, does God love you?  And the only way you can answer yes is if you are in Christ, and Christ is in you because your can be sure that God loves His Son. And it is through the Cross He bore that God loves us.  This is clear to us as we read the New Testament.  We can see, for example, in John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world...”.  There’s God’s love. Then comes the cross, “…that he gave His only Son…”.  You will find that there are very few exceptions in the New Testament in which God’s love for man is pronounced out of context with the cross.  So it would behoove us, as we ponder God’s love, to keep the cross close at hand.

My dear children, to broach the subject of God’s love is a difficult thing to attempt while keeping this letter within the confines I have set for myself.  There is no end to such a discussion, indeed through the ages it has been a paramount topic.  Jonathan Edwards is attributed to be God’s spark that kindled a great awakening a couple hundred years ago.  The sermon he preached was entitled, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”.  That is a foreign concept today, but not to God.  It is in such a sermon, and its elements, that someone discovers the extent of the true love of God.

So, dear children, if you ever doubt that God loves you, pray.  Pray that He would love you.  Ask Him to show you His love.  Ask Him to manifest his love in you by transforming you into the likeness of His Son, and the radiant bride of His Son.  Ask him that His love would kindle a love within your own soul for your Savior and others.  I and your mother will be praying for you both also.

Your father

A Familiar Story Of Apostatizing Youth X ?

Dear children,

As you might imagine I am keenly interested in any advice that would help me to help you develop a stronger faith.  So when I see an article entitled 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church, it gets my attention.  It is but one of many appropriate articles that express concern at the number of today’s youth who are abandoning their Christian faith when they leave home.  But what caught my attention, and what I would like to discuss in this letter, was a comment left by a young woman, fresh from her parent’s home herself, who explained why she abandoned her “faith”.  The first half:

These articles keep popping up all over the place in my feed and I find it so interesting. You see I am one of those kids. I am one that was raised in a very Christian home and now am definitely not a believer. I was very involved in my church. I sang up front many many sundays. I helped out in the nursery. My entire social life was wrapped around the church. That was all I knew. I loved God. I read the Bible cover to cover many many times. I prayed fervently on the constant. I witnessed to those around me. I published a Christian girl’s online magazine/newsletter. I served at the nursing home about once a month. I went to Africa with the Jesus Film. I was the definition of “youth that don’t leave the church.” You say it’s not a formula and yet you basically endorse it as if it is. 

As a father I can say that I would be encouraged by these things; encouraged yes, but not persuaded.  Your mother and I do the best we can to examine your hearts.  We don’t just assume that your conformity to the surroundings that we’ve immersed you in is evidence of a regenerated heart.  For all we know, a different environment will bring about a different conformity. We can see that this has been the case with this poor soul.

When she continues with her comment she transitions from herself as the topic to accusations against the Church.  She explains why not any of the external evidences that she manifested earlier mattered in the end:

I’ll just say in my case, I am a naturally very curious person. And I had questions about Christianity that apparently are not really encouraged to be asked. I found a huge gap between Christianity and authenticity. I left because it wasn’t real to me anymore. I left because I saw how it’s all a show and fear tactics. I left because I had discovered what real love looked like. I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity. I left because I FINALLY found peace….Instead of writing articles on why the youth are or aren’t leaving the church, why not just ask us? You may be really surprised at our answers. 🙂  

I’d like to respond to this part of her comment for your sake.  So let’s look at each statement individually.  She starts:

I’ll just say in my case, I am a naturally very curious person. 

Curiosity is a human trait. No one need deny it in order to be a Christian, nor does having more of it keep anyone from being a Christian.  But we do begin to pick up on a veiled arrogance as we read this sentence in the context of the rest of the comment.  It is but an arrogant assumption that curiosity and Christianity are not compatible, which is a wrong assumption.  That arrogance will become more blatant as we continue with her comment.

 And I had questions about Christianity that apparently are not really encouraged to be asked.

You will hear this accusation often, but is it true?  Does “Christianity” really discourage the asking of questions?  While I can’t speak to her personal experience, I can speak to Christianity in general.  But before I do, I’d like to speak to her–unwitting I’m sure–sleight of hand in this statement.  She makes a general indictment against a very large, old and encompassing thing, Christianity.  And she bases it on a narrow and limited thing, her experience.  Where was her curiosity?  If she felt discouraged from asking questions in her limited experience, why didn’t she go elsewhere for answers?   She is, after all, living in the age of the internet, with lots of answers available at her fingertips.  But man is a blame shifter by nature, and he is quick to shift that blame from self to others, and I think that’s what’s happening here.  I’ve never been discouraged from asking questions.  That’s been my experience.  And I certainly haven’t discouraged you from asking them.  But even if I had been discouraged I would not have been thwarted, I have more curiosity than that.

But there is another side to this equation.  Some of the answers will necessarily be, “I don’t know.”, which is the truth.  And that is the rub for many I think.  There is so much that we don’t know.  But remember that this will be true regardless of whether you are an atheist, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever.  It is not as if this poor soul has moved into a system of thought that has all the answers.  We can know she hasn’t.  But as far as Christianity is concerned, God promises to save us from our sins.  He doesn’t promise to make us all knowing.

I found a huge gap between Christianity and authenticity.

Here I’m sure she has a point.  She herself was obviously not authentic.  But even had she been authentic, she would have still been surrounded by inauthenticity within the Church.  Jesus tells us that weeds are planted among the wheat.  So it should not have surprised her.  But even if she were surrounded by “wheat” only, she would have still been surrounded by inauthenticity.  This raises a serious question that demands an answer.  If others had looked at her life alone, and judged Christianity on it alone, would they have seen a “huge gap between Christianity and authenticity”?  I know the answer because I know humans.  The answer is yes, they would have seen a gap.  So have grace my dear children for your brothers and sisters in the Lord.  They are running a race and fighting the fight just as are you.  True authenticity is the admission to each other that we are not authentic.  The believer understands this.  The unbeliever can’t.

But I will chalk this up to her youth, which is naturally idealistic.  She will in time discover that no matter what she pursues, the lack of authenticity will be a part of it.  Even if she pursues lawlessness, she will still be inauthentic, because she will be offended when others steal from her, harm her, lie to her and so on.  Should she become an environmentalist, a secular humanist, an activist, it won’t matter.  She will still be in the midst of inauthenticity, and I can say this with the utmost confidence.  Why?  Because man is fallen.  He can’t be authentic in anything. There was only one authentic person to ever live, and she has rejected Him.  She will eventually have to either accept this fact, or shut down her curiosity altogether.  She will have to lie to herself, which might finally, after all, allow her to exist in an authentic, if unreal, world.  Man is most authentic when he is deceiving himself.

I left because it wasn’t real to me anymore.  I left because I saw how it’s all a show and fear tactics.

Given the rest of her comment this makes sense.  But it raises yet more questions.  What is real?  If she was so convinced all her life that Christianity was the real thing, and then it suddenly becomes unreal, what then?  How can she ever trust herself in judging “realness” again?  She will necessarily discover, with even a tiny bit of curiosity, that this lack of realness will follow her wherever she goes, unless, again, she deceives herself.  Christianity confronts the lack of realness head on.  It provides answers concerning our purpose, evil, pain and suffering.  That is real.  She won’t find these answers elsewhere.  At best she will only be able to expend herself attempting the impossible task of rebuilding Eden.  And she will fail like the millions who have attempted it before her.

I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity. I left because I FINALLY found peace.

The vail has been removed now and she is revealing her true reason for leaving, which is that she hates God.  She hates Him because He is Sovereign, and she is at war with Him, hence no peace.  But most of all she hates Him because he is Just.  She, like all people, has broken God’s law.  She, like you and I, have lied, and stolen, and have hated–which Jesus equates to murder.  We are all guilty, and there is a just reward for us all in our guilt.  But God, in his love, sent his Son to die on the cross.  He has reconciled us to Him through His Son.  He has made peace with us.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  Sure, there is a measure of peace that can be found in living in self-deception.  Whistling in the dark can gain a measure of peace I suppose.  But it doesn’t change the reality that not only will she sin against those around her, those around her will sin against her.  And while her sin might not seem all that bad to her, we can know that the sin of others, who do not buy into her way of thinking, will steal back what peace she might muster, and then some.

I left because I had discovered what real love looked like.

This is arrogance completely unveiled.  Can she really believe that she, a young person in the 21st century, has figured something out that 2000 years of scholars, martyrs and devouts missed?  Evidently so, and there is the arrogance.  Those lovers of God would be in tears to “learn” that the whole thing has been nothing but a hoax, perpetrated on hundreds of millions of people over thousands of years.  But not her.  Oh no.  She’s smarter than all that, and in her thinking herself smarter, she exudes pride.  She knows what real love is, and all those who have gone before were fooled, lacking perhaps the curiosity needed to not be fooled.

But her curiosity ought to have led her to the realization of her ignorance.  Real love was Jesus dying on the cross for those who hated God, and then reconciling them to Himself while they were in the very act of warring against Him.  That’s real love.  Real love has nothing to do with feelings.  It has nothing to do with what’s in it for me… like achieving a few temporary and fleeting warm and fuzzies.  Dear children, please understand, you do not want her “real love”.  The love of self, and how others, or things, make the “self” feel is often mistaken for love.  But in reality it is only self-centeredness.

 

So what do I, your father, think about this?  I think that she is the victim of her times.  You will notice that she rejected a religion, and not the Gospel.  It is a religion that now preaches grace without justice, and that “God loves you unconditionally”. Its message has in many ways become one devoid of the Gospel, and devoid of a need for the Gospel.  But you will hear it preached time and again.  And it will be preached to unsaved people who are already convinced that God loves them as they are, and so feel no conviction, or need to do the repenting that Jesus preached.

You will live in a time that has confused social service with the Gospel, which removes the power from Christianity and relegates it to a self-righteous, feel-good religion.  The Gospel is key, but the Gospel is not about how great you are in God’s eyes, but rather about what a sorry state you are in, in God’s eyes.  And that has never been a popular message.  But once you understand it, the Gospel, and grace, are beautiful; much too beautiful to trade in for a worldly counterfeit.

I came out of the world that this poor girl has fallen in love with.  I know what lies ahead for her and can only hope she will authentically curious.  But for me, I will never forget the words of Peter in John 6.  Jesus had just preached what seemed to those present to be a bizarre message, that one must drink His blood, and eat His flesh to have eternal life.  Most abandoned Him on hearing this, but not His disciples.  After all were gone, Jesus looked at them and asked, “Are you going to leave Me too?”  Peter responded, “To whom shall we go?”   If this girl had received the Gospel, if she had understood justice, and then mercy, she would have asked the same question.  “To whom shall I go?”  She would have known that that question is the question of the ages.

I pray that God would arrest you.  That you would understand justice too, and then mercy.  I pray that you would understand, in the great scheme of things that extend outward, far beyond your being, what a great salvation the salvation offered us through the cross is.

Your father

Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve+*

Dear children,

I want to say something to you that I admit scares me.  It scares me because I’m going to challenge you to make a choice.  I understand that by doing this I may be also challenging you to turn your back on the only hope for eternal salvation that you have, and the thought of you doing that is more than I can bear.  Still, I’d rather that you turn your back on Jesus, and know it, than to live your life with your back to Him anyway, and not know it.  I’d also rather not be deceived myself.  I’d rather not have to constantly search for evidence in your life, having to twist the least sliver of it into some kind of comfort for myself that all is well with your soul, while knowing deep down that you are lost.

Once you leave my house, if you manage to show up for church on Sunday mornings I will be pleased because your presence there will give me hope that your external act of coming to church will be a true reflection of what is happening in your heart.  But if the seed that was planted there becomes unfruitful, or simply dies, your presence in church will only serve to deceive others. Worse, it may even deceive you, and that would be a tragedy.

The Bible tells us that when we have idols, we become like them; though we have eyes we are unseeing, and though we have ears we are unhearing.  (Ps 115, Mt 13)  We humans are masters at self-deception you see.  We deceive ourselves into thinking that we can live a life of neutrality, neither being for Jesus or against Him.  Or we deceive ourselves into believing that we can serve Him while at the same time serve other masters too; that we can somehow straddle the fence between God’s kingdom and this world.  But the scriptures explicitly denies this option.  We can see this played out in the Bible when Joshua admonishes the Israelites to make up their minds, to choose whom they will serve, either the LORD, or other gods.  We see it when Jesus warns us that we will either gather or scatter, that we will either be for Him, or against Him.  Any middle ground you think you might hold is set against Jesus.  He admonishes us in Revelations to either be hot or cold, and that the lukewarm repulses Him.  It’s better for us to accept that reality and either embrace or reject Jesus than it is to live a life of delusion, thinking that we are co-heirs in one kingdom when in reality we are mere subjects in another.

So what does this mean?  At issue here is your heart.  There are the externals, yes.  But then there is the heart, the part of us with which Jesus is concerned.  We can live a lie and fool some people by our externals. But Jesus called those who do that white-washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones. While man looks on the outside, you see, God looks at the heart.  It’s not how we appear on the outside therefore that matters. It’s who we are on the inside.  So the question that you need to keep asking yourself is, how is my heart?  Does my sin bother me enough to repent?  Do I really fear God?  These are important questions that we need to ever be asking ourselves.  I have found John’s first letter to be a great help in this matter.  This passage is from chapter 1:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  (1 John 1:5-10)

John teaches us what to do with the sin in our lives.  He’s speaking to those who are “walking in the light”, and yet he acknowledges that those who do walk in the light still sin.  We must discern between the externals and the heart, especially in ourselves.  The externals are the things we do to draw the praise of man and to make ourselves acceptable to our culture or community.  But the heart concerns who we know we really are, and who God knows we really are. Sin must be dealt with in the heart and we either do this through the blood of Jesus, or we attempt to rationalize it away somehow, or to shift blame or something else.  But the sin remains.  Later in John’s same letter we read:

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.  You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4-10)

The key word to understand in this passage is “practice”.  To try to please your Father in heaven and fail is one thing, and it is a Christian thing.  But to use God’s love, expressed through the death of His Son on the cross, as a licence to practice sin is another thing altogether.  The difference is a heart difference.  One heart will love the sin more than it loves Jesus.  It will twist Jesus’ words to rationalize its sin.  It will blame shift.  It will accuse those who call it to repentance of being mean-spirited and judgemental.  But the other heart will be broken.  It will beat its chest and cry out, Lord be merciful to me, a sinner!  It will run the race with perseverance, and fight to cast off those sins that so easily entangle it, because its eyes will be fixed on Jesus.

In the end, it is better, I think, to reject Jesus than to live in deception, thinking that you are in Him when in reality you are not.   But, if you choose to fight the good fight, and to run the race with perseverance, you will find yourself in the company of many fellows fighters, runners, and yes, forgivers and sinners too in the Body of Christ.  That’s just how his body functions. Grace is paramount, sin isn’t.

So I pray that you seek the face of your God, that you repent, and that you live a life of repentance.  I pray that you experience the joy of salvation, the taste of which will make the seemingly sweetest sweets of this world taste bitter.  It is your father’s prayer, and so I pray it.  Lord, please arrest the hearts of of the children you have entrusted to me.

Your father

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