2014-07-20 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato
Title: “Summer Love Letters from the J’s”
1 John 2:1-26
Last week review:
– community, fellowship
– spiritual disciplines: attentiveness, paying attention to the other in the moment…listening to God speaking…personally & corporately
– SLOW DOWN…stop, be quiet, rest, be still…
– 2nd spiritual discipline: “Soul-friending” – – friendship as a spiritual journey together…this is where the intimacy of fellowship can happen! It can happen personally…& corporately. Pay attention to what God might be providing in your life in regards to “spiritual companionship.”
– Does our community provide the grace, strength, and sustenance for you? Hope so….draw from the well of the Spirit…even today as we worship together…not just for us, but for the good of the world!
We’re in the 2nd part of a 4-week jaunt through what we might call a “summer love letter.” If you were with us a few weeks ago, we were in another love letter…the letter to the Philippians, written by the apostle Paul. But now we’re reading a love letter from the Beloved Disciple (or disciples). These were the Johannine disciples…people who had loved and been loved…face to face, heart to heart by the Living Jesus…they’d started several churches, probably scattered along the southern part of modern day Turkey…churches that were talked about in the Revelation of Jesus (Sardis, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Ephesus…). These churches have been in existence for 40-60 years and now it’s in the mid-90’s (CE)…John is getting older…he’s probably in his 80’s…he’s lived quite a life and now is taking pen to paper one last time, to let his congregations know how to “keep on keepin’ on.”
So, yes, this is a love letter, written by the beloved disciples, to beloved churches who were going through a fantastic, carefree time of love, peace and happiness??
No…as it often turns out in the letters of the early church, there’s stuff going on. Challenges. Conflict. Disunity. Disparity. Disdain.
And 1 John is no different…it appears that though Beloved church has stayed faithful to many things, and devoted to “walk just as Jesus walked” (1:6), John and his community of elders have heard that there are some amongst them who are disrupting the “unity & fellowship of the spirit.”
Eugene Peterson talks about the conflict as follows:
“John was pastor to churches being disrupted by people who didn’t want to be pinned down to the GOD & LOVE that Jesus reveals…in this letter we see him reestablishing the original and organic unity of GOD & LOVE that come to focus and becomes available to us in Jesus Christ.”
Peterson goes on to say that these “disruptors”… make up their own idea of God + make up their own style of love…they get 2 of the most important things wrong in life! God & Love.
As we listen to this letter being read today…pay attention to those 2 big themes…God & Love…and perhaps make a note or 2 as you’re listening to the letter…circle stuff, put question marks, put exclamation marks…we’ll hear the letter, just as church-goers would have heard it 2000 years ago…and then we’ll do a bit of theological bantering together…so that we might take some steps together, to intentionally keep ourselves on track as we embrace and live out these 2 big, life-changing themes of God & Love.
[read the letter here, 1 John 2:1-26]
Now…..for a jaunt through the letter together!
Voice 1: I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.
Today’s John & Johanna letter excerpt starts off by reiterating what he said in part 1…though we are God’s beloved, we are stuck and stymied in a world of sin…so it’s no use denying it or pretending it doesn’t exist…face the facts…we’re sinners…but the J’s don’t stop there…the “beloved children” card way outplays the “we’re sinners” card…sin is not the final answer, for we have a “priest-friend”…Jesus…righteous Jesus…who solved the sin problem for good! Not just yours and mine…but for the whole world!
But you might ask…what do forgiven, beloved people do?
The J’s answer that in paragraph 2… “keep God’s commandments!”
Voice 2: Here’s how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: Keep his commandments. If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love.
This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.
2 practical points here…keep God’s word….and then it’s even clearer…. “live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” Tho’ I wasn’t a huge fan of the movement in the late 90’s… this is the 90’s CE version of WWJD. What would Jesus do?? Do likewise!! But lest we forget, this is not just a matter of trying harder… living the same kind of life Jesus lived … is a way that comes to us as we work this “way of Jesus” out in community, as we allow ourselves to be empowered and enlivened by the Spirit of God. And it’s a matter of “spiritual disciplines” or practices. I’ve always kept Dallas Williard’s exhortation about spiritual disciplines in the back of my mind…we don’t wake up and just be like Jesus any better than we might wake up 1 morning and decide we’re gonna golf like Tiger Woods or hit a baseball like Derek Jeter. Doing Jesus work takes practice, community and a big dose of the Spirit of the Living God. But the good news? It’s not impossible…and that’s why the J’s tie our intimacy with God to “living the Jesus life.”
Voice 1: My dear friends, I’m not writing anything new here.
This is the oldest commandment in the book, and you’ve known it from day one. It’s always been implicit in the Message you’ve heard. On the other hand, perhaps it is new, freshly minted as it is in both Christ and you—the darkness on its way out and the True Light already blazing! Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark.
It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.
FIELD testing time! The J’s have to admit that they are not re-inventing the wheel here. From the time time began….God is love…and God created his created ones, the pinnacle of his creation, to love one another.
But alas, it’s so easy for us be those people who are “prone to wander…Lord I feel it, prone to leave the one I love”… so perhaps this love letter will do a “fresh-minting” in our hearts…darkness on it’s way out and the True Light blazing…today is our day for freedom! We give up our hate for brother/sister…and like the blind man who is healed by the spit & mud of Jesus, we no longer stumble…and know which way is up…we can see clearly.
(Will you take a step in stopping the hate of your brother/sister? Start it today!)
Voice 2: I remind you, my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name. You veterans were in on the ground floor, and know the One who started all this; you newcomers have won a big victory over the Evil One.
And a second reminder, dear children: You know the Father from personal experience. You veterans know the One who started it all; and you newcomers—such vitality and strength! God’s word is so steady in you. Your fellowship with God enables you to gain a victory over the Evil One.
AFFIRMATION of the generations time! This part of the letter might fall into the I’m gonna build you up before I get all “intense” upon ya….The J’s start to lay it on thick (in the best sense of the word) upon every generation in this church. There’s 3 unique categories here…Children, Veterans, and Newcomers…Children is probably everyone…Veterans (you get it!), and Newbie’s…they are all important…no matter what stage of the journey….and they need each other.
*That’s why I love FBC Edmonton! You look around…and you see people on all parts of the journey (in fact, people come to FBC precisely for that reason!).
– All: Your sins are forgiven!
– Veterans…you know God’s faithfulness in the long haul…God who began a good work…
– Newbies…you’re newer to the God is good experience…bringing fresh zeal and energy into our midst
– All: You’re having personal encounters with the Living God, good on ya!
– Vet’s: You’re the “long obedience in the same direction” types..good on ya!
– Newbies…such vitality and strength…even in the midst of the pressures of the evil one (reminding us of the wrestlings we face with the principalities of darkness)
So…after the accolades, some bold exhortations…
Voice 1: Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods.
Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father.
Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.
So……………The J’s are saying to these Beloved children, words of warning…it’s almost like they’re saying… “We know you don’t do this…and that’s why we’ve just heaped affirmation upon you…but just in case you haven’t noticed…the way of the world sure crushes the way of Jesus in the world doesn’t it?” They’re starting to hint on the way of those who have “gone out from their congregation and become antichrists”…
Remember Peterson’s quote? The 2 most difficult things to get straight in life are LOVE and GOD….the antichrist’s have gone off-the-wall with BOTH!!
They have “loved the world’s ways.”
They have “become enthralled by the world’s goods.”
“Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father.”
Now, when the J’s talk about the world…they’re not talking about God’s good creation that is good and very good! It’s the way of the world…the systems of the world…the deceptive trappings of the evil one who lures people into a way that leads to death and despair VS a way that leads to deep, lasting life.
Be warned, children of God…be warned!
Wanting, wanting, wanting…how do I look, how do I feel, how do I control…is not the life-giving calling for the NPOG…listen to God’s heart…and follow the way of Jesus in the world.
Voice 2: Children, time is just about up. You heard that Antichrist is coming. Well, they’re all over the place, antichrists everywhere you look. That’s how we know that we’re close to the end. They left us, but they were never really with us.
If they had been, they would have stuck it out with us, loyal to the end. In leaving, they showed their true colors, showed they never did belong. But you belong. The Holy One anointed you, and you all know it. I haven’t been writing this to tell you something you don’t know, but to confirm the truth you do know, and to remind you that the truth doesn’t breed lies.
With all the deceptive influences that have invaded their beloved churches…and with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem about 20 years earlier…The J’s must wonder if the end is coming. If Jesus’ mysterious promises of the end being near and how God will do an eternal and thorough house-cleaning is imminent… then perhaps that’s why they write “the time is just about up!”
In essence they are saying… “don’t lose heart!” Yes, these antichrist’s (people who are mucking up the reality of GOD in Christ, people who are pursuing the way of sin VS true love in community) have messed up your trajectory as a light-bearing presence, but hang in there!
Stay together! YOU BELONG. The living presence of our resurrected Lord has anointed you, called you, chosen you…and our Lord will keep you and guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.
Voice 1: So who is lying here? It’s the person who denies that Jesus is the Divine Christ, that’s who. This is what makes an antichrist: denying the Father, denying the Son. No one who denies the Son has any part with the Father, but affirming the Son is an embrace of the Father as well. Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink into your life.
If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both Son and Father. This is exactly what Christ promised: eternal life, real life!
**Stay the course with God**
What a great question huh? What makes an antichrist? It’s not some demonic, skeleton-esque, blood-dripping monster that grunts and snorts and drips green saliva on your forehead as he’s backing you into a corner in your basement cellar…
It’s quite simple, actually…and lots of religious people do it all the time!
We deny the Father…God’s loving heart for all the world.
We deny the Son…we choose the way of judgement and condemnation VS the way of hospitality and reconciliation.
These antichrist’s weren’t monsters on broomsticks flying through the air casting evil spells. These were everyday humans…just like you and me…who had decided that God’s love and reconciling work in the world was not enough…it needed more…more magic, more hocus pocus, more flash and pomp…more guitars and decibels…more secret powers (see that flyer I got in the mail with the Christian magician on it??).
We Christians are tempted to be antichrist’s in all types of ways…but the heart of it is that whenever we deny the Father’s work…or the son’s way in the world…then we join the spirit of antichrist.
And that’s why the J’s say: “Stay with what you heard in the beginning…let it sink into your life.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Let it sink into your life…
Voice 2: I’ve written to warn you about those who are trying to deceive you. But they’re no match for what is embedded deeply within you—Christ’s anointing, no less! You don’t need any of their so-called teaching. Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie.
Live deeply in what you were taught.
**Stay the course with Love**
This part of the love letter ends with a warning…stay awake, my loves, stay awake! But it’s not in your own strength…you have been anointed, and Christ’s truth lives in you…that’s how you live blameless lives in a crooked and deceptive world. Christ’s very presence in you…the hope of Glory.
“Live deeply in what you were taught.”
There’s nothing new under the sun is there? There’s no magical way to live a better Christian life this summer…so as we close our time, I invite you to take a quiet moment, and be open to the work of the Spirit as you reflect on this letter…perhaps it’s even the last, simple exhortation from the J’s:
“Live deeply in what you were taught.”