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Week 16 Devotional Blog (April 14-20)

Day 1

Isaiah 6

So Isaiah is describing a vision he had, where he was located in the presence of the Lord. This is not the Lord visiting him where he resides, but him visiting the Lord where He reigns. He was transported, not physically, but experientially, in a comprehensively sensory way, into the throne room of the pre-incarnate Jesus. That's mind boggling!

And I'll just admit it's hard for me to get there in my own head. I don't know how to imagine that even. But the description Isaiah gives us is helpful in terms of impact...

Notice the description is not of Jesus' face, but of the train of his robe and the surroundings. Either Isaiah can't even look upon the face of Jesus, or he had no words to describe it... he is just overwhelmed by the breathtaking scene, the glory and awe and wonder of the moment, and he is driven instinctively and instantly to his knees and face. Being in the presence of Christ, surrounded by the glory of God, makes him immediately and intensely aware of his own unworthiness, guilt, weakness, need and even vulnerability.

The scene he presents of being in the presence of Jesus, is one of angels worshipping, him seeing himself and humanity as unclean, leading him to repentance and worship, and then being forgiven, welcomed and then sent by Jesus to proclaim his glory and grace to Israel. This is the gospel at work 700 years before Jesus entered human history. Isaiah is experiencing very personally and viscerally the same thing all Christians would come to experience in salvation through Jesus.

Coming alive to God means that we encounter the living Jesus, who gathers us to a worshipping community, drives us to our knees in repentance, forgives us of all our guilt, welcomes us into his loving presence and new family, and then commissions us for ministry to proclaim this good news of His grace and glory to others, many of whom will not hear him but some of whom he will save and bring to himself.

There's a ton in this text... much more than this, but the gospel explodes out of this scene to me in a really powerful way. And it inspires worship and gratitude and awe in me. What a great salvation and glorious gospel and beautiful King we have received!

Day 2

Isaiah 7:1-9

Day 3

Isaiah 7:10-25

Day 4

Isaiah 8:1-10

Day 5

Isaiah 8:11-22

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Week 15 Devotional Blog (April 7-13)

Day 1

Isaiah 4

Isaiah 4 is a relief. God has been very blunt and honest with his people in Isaiah 3 about the mess they have created for themselves. He has been straight forward about the disaster and upheaval coming for them by his own hand. He is not shying away from that at all. God is telling them of the social disruption and unrest that He is sending to them because of the ways they have diminished Him. He is taking away his blessing and the the riches he has bestowed on His people and the favor he is poured out on them because they have made God's grace to them about them. They have fixated on the gifts rather than the Giver. They have been preoccupied with their own image rather than the One whose image they bear. And God is giving them a devastating and prolonged experience of the life they inevitably build for themselves when they make life about themselves. And we're left with a suffocating and overwhelmingly sad reality.

And we might expect Isaiah 4 to take us deeper into that darkness. But instead, Isaiah 4 reminds us that God's people have been caught up in a story of grace. The context of God's judgement is embedded in His story of promise and redemption. Isaiah 4 jolts us out of resignation and and out of despair, to reintroduce us to the God who saves guilty sinners like us.

"In that day" (v. 2), points us beyond the severe mercy of God to strip away that which we treasure, to the greater treasure which he is securing for us, which is the treasure He is conditioning us for. "That day" is a future day with Messianic implications, when God sprouts a twig off the Branch of David who will be a Light to the Nations and a blessing to the whole earth.

God is not just giving back to Israel in chapter 4 that which he took away in chapter 3. He is giving them something different and greater than they've ever had or even dared to imagine. This is not mere restoration. This is complete renewal. God is making them new by giving them something new... Someone new... to make them something new.

Isaiah invokes images of Exodus and Temple, where the presence of the Lord is manifest visibly in the smoke and fire, and he's envisioning a future day where God's presence powerfully rests on His people, the Church... where local assemblies of forgiven sinners gather for the celebration and display of His Glory. And in that time, Isaiah says, anticipating the days in which we are blessed to live, God himself will spread a canopy over His people, and give them shade and protection. That is our priilege, beloved. We live under the relief of God's gracious presence and ongoing renewal, and under the fierce defense of His infinite perfections.

God's spirit of judgement and burning referenced in v. 4, and depicted and described in chapter 3, it turns out, are not for our ruin but for our repair and renewal. He imposes difficulty and loss upon us not to punish us, but in pursuit of us. He visits us with various calamaties and disruptive experiences, not crush us but to save us. This judgement and burning is not to condemn and blot us out, but it is to refine us and graft us in to something greater if we will receive the Lord's correction and trust in the Lord's kindness to us.

Day 2

Isaiah 5:1-7

So God is talking to his people about the vineyard he planted and nurtured and cultivated, but which produced bad fruit in place of the grapes he intended. God gave himself to that vineyard devotedly. He provided everything and cared for it vigilantly, and he loved the vineyard fully, yet it did not fulfill its purpose. So, God is prepared to destroy it...

He will bring ruin upon the vineyard in an obvious way that matches the ruin produced by the vineyard. Because he gave himself fully to Israel, and loved her, protected her, established her, set her apart to himself, and made her prosperous, and yet she turned her heart away from him, he will undo all the good they have ignored.

And Isaiah says, specifically, the fruit God intended and looked for was justice and righteousness, yet he saw bloodshed and cries of distress. God wanted humaneness and Israel mimicked the worlds violence. God wanted equity and the Israel imitated the worlds corruption. God wanted Israel to display the beauty and welcome of God to the world, and instead they followed the socially disruptive worldly systems of elitism and abuse of power and exploitation of the of the vulnerable. God wanted them to display a moral standard elevated above the worldly cultures, and instead the took His name and drug it into the same moral sewer in which the world sloshes around.

God gives himeslf to his people to make them distinct from the world, not so that they can freely take on the same corrupt charactersitics of the world and feel good about it. And this is really important for us as Jesus' church today... because God has created a new humanity through the finished work of Christ, that is now without borders but not without distinction.

Like Israel before us, the Church of Jesus, and every local church that bears his name, is to be a distinctive community with an elevated social environment, where justice is prized and practiced in a radical way and where holiness is pursued and guarded in a serious way. If the church has no distinctiveness from the worldly culture surrounding them, than there is nothing of that church worth surviving and God will treat her, in the end, as he responded to Israel in Isaiah 5... and we each have a personal contribution to make to the distinctiveness of our church... and each church has a meaningful contribution to make to the larger Church, as the people of God scattered around the world, but gathered together in the name of Jesus.

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Week 14 Devotional Blog (March 31 - April 6)

Day 1

Isaiah 1:1-20

The opening chapter of Isaiah is God rebuking Israel, the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. He characterizes them as a rebellious child who He has raised, trained and loved to live honorably in the world, but who have instead forsaken Him and his ways to live for themselves and their own impulses.

Isaiah even goes so far as to say the only distinction between Israel and the judged cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, was the mercy of God to spare his own people and preserve for them a remnant. There was nothing in the moral character of Israel that was elevated above those two notoriously evil cities. Which is to say Israel was not moderately idolatrous, or slightly corrupted… she was excessively wicked and altogether ruined spiritually.

There was nothing in Israel by this time, around 720-730 B.C., that embodied what God had made her to be as his people. On the whole, Israel had rejected God and turned her back on him and become like every other darkened earthly kingdom. Perhaps the darkest reality of all, in Jerusalem, was the idea that her retained religious practices, which had long since been divorced from any reality with God, led them to believe that they were still a light to the nations. Their wickedness and godlessness had been masquerading in the fraudulent forms of worship and obedience as if they were a people who honored God.

750 years later, Jesus would point out the particular depth of this kind of incoherence when he said, “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” That was Israel in the late 8th century B.C. They were utterly blind, yet feeling great about their sharpness of vision. And God is weary of their pretense, and in v. 16-20 he calls them to repentance.

His judgement is real, but it is flanked by his mercy. He is willing to forgive. He is willing to start over. He is willing to welcome them and renew them. He is willing to give himself fully to them and to give them the future He created them and saved them for. God is altogether willing to advance his purposes though them and lavish his blessing upon them. They need to only repent and turn from their wickedness by living into His commands and the culture he established in Israel by his word and his presence.

He is willing to wash them clean and rid them of the stain of their guilt. He is willing cleanse their iniquity and cancel their debt. Israel’s God is willing to do everything he has promised, even still, in spite of their failure to do their part. The question, in v. 19, to them and to us, is this: Are they willing? Are you willing? Am I willing?

The question is not one of our ability to be perfectly obedient to God, but of our willingness to be continually repentant of our disobedience to God. Are we willing to continually walk with God on the basis of repentance for our sin, and renouncing any claim on our own lives. If we are willing to relate to God on the simple terms of repentance and faith, which He has established, then life with God is possible and the blessing of God will still come to us. If however, we want to relate to God on our terms, asking him to simply endorse our agenda, then we will experience life apart from God and all the haunting realities that come with it.

Day 2

Isaiah 1:21-31

Isaiah continues to paint this picture of bleakness... a misuse and abuse of God's blessing on Israel which has led to a sort of moral degradation, personal deprivation and social desolation. And he's pointing out the embarrassment and shame of actually choosing such things over beauty, flourishing and humaneness, as if to ask, "why would you choose obvious misery and deadness over the joy and life offered by God?" And it's a fair question still facing us today and worthy of our consideration.

God explicitly states that he will yet get the last word. He will deal decisively with His enemies and expose their folly. The obviousness of their evil choices, and the ridiculousness of settling for life on their terms will be laid before them and all people. And the only difference between those who are condemned and those who are redeemed in repentance. We are all of us prone toward the same rebellion and the same self rule and the same rejection of God's glory and God's authority... but those who repent of their pathological sin will be received.

We cannot be perfect. We can be repentant. We will never be righetous on our own. But we can be forgiven by God. For Israel then, as with us now, our standing with God depends on the grace of God which is received through the empty hands of repentance toward God and faith in God.

Day 3

Isaiah 2:1-5

So Isaiah moves beyond the present darkness in Israel, to a vision of the future possibility for Israel. He is giving us a glimpse into the reality repentance secures for us. Rather than characterizing the deadness of their lives now and calling them out of that into some unknown alternative, Isaiah is giving them and us a glimpse into the better future God has for all those who will turn to him and follow him. This is the better future God is inviting Israel into and which Jesus leads us into if we'll repent and follow him.

Verses 3-4 give us a total reversal of things under the reign and rule of God. If we go together to the mountain of the Lord, their will be a new humanity and a new society where the word of God governs his people and we walk in his ways. And the stark difference between the earthly reality we live in and the future reality GOd promises to us, is that in the same way we create conflict and make war out of anything and everything now, God will resolve all those issues and make peace among us continually.

Instead of using everything as weapons against one another, we will use even weapons as instruments for peace and harmony and creating a better future together. Rather than animosity toward one another in all things, we will walk in unity with God and one another in all things.

The whole world is in violent conflict... inner conflict, relational conflict, civil conflict, legal conflicts, social conflicts, political conflicts, corporate conflicts, international conflicts... all of life is hijacked by and wrecked by conflict. And God, through Isaiah, is inviting us to imagine a future without any of that, where peace and settledness and security and safety replace conflict at every level and in every sphere. And God is telling us that our future is moving toward that reality if we will enter in to life with him on the terms set by him.

Day 4

Isaiah 2:6-22

Isaiah continues to point forward, beyond the hopelessness and darkness of His own present day, and beyond the brokenness of even our own present day, to what he calls "The Day of the Lord." This is when God finally and fully intervenes to bring history to it's conclusion, to judge all that deviated from his design. And in that day, Isaiah says, God will finally bring low all those whose lives were driven by lofty ideas of humanity and themselves especially.

The essence of sin and rebellion against God, is to live as though we are sufficient to function as gods and have no need for God. Our sinfulness is most obvious in our lofty thoughts of us and our diminished thoughts of God, which God will ultimately expose by bringing us low. And Isaiah is foreshadowing that day, telling us that if we have eyes to see that future reckoning now, they we will begin to repent now.

Rather than waiting for God to humiliate us, we can humble ourselves. Rather than waiting for GOd to shatter our lofty self-importance and bring us low, we can reserve our lofty thoughts for God and take the low place before the Lord today. If we know that God opposes the proud but gives his grace to the humble, than we can resist and root out everything in our lives that nurtures pride and pursue dependence upon God for everything and the worship of God in everything.

What does it look like for you today, to pursue lowliness of heart? To war against self-importance and self-preoccupation? How might you focus your loftiest thoughts and ideas and words toward the God of the Bible and elevate others over yourself? This is, in some sense, the daily, moment-by-moment, Christian preoccupation. So let's live like Christians today. Take the low place, which is the place of blessing.

Day 5

Isaiah 3

God continues to foreshadow His judgment which is to come upon Jersualem and Judah. There are different reasons for God's judgement and different images which represent his judgement the one that is compelling to me in Isaiah 3 is related to leadership. I have not studied this passage before and the prophets aren't always easy for me to understand on the surface. Because of the poetic language, it's not obvious to me what passages like these point to. Are they pointing to specific historical events, or general periods of time? Is Isaiah speaking strictly metaphorically or in anyway literally?

I don't just instinctively recognize these things so, some of what I reflect on here may well be misunderstood, but I want to engage with Scripture on different levels and admit that even as a preacher and teacher of God's word, I still feel way out of my depth and like a beginner. That should keep me humble as I come to the Word of God so that I'm dependent upon the Spirit of God to give me wisdom concerning the Truth of God.

Anyway, I am struck by the form of judgement represented in Isaiah 3. Perhaps it's because of the failure and corruption of leaders in Israel in that day, based on v. 14, which tells us that the Lord will judge the elders and princes of his people.

But whatever the case, Isaiah's word from the Lord says, "I will make boys their princes and infants shall rule over them..." (v. 4) And again in v. 12, "My people - infants are their oppressors, and women rule of them."

So God's judgement upon Israel for their leadership corruption, is to give her young, inexperienced, unqualified, impulsive, and presumably foolish leaders. Women and Children are not less than men, but when we're talking about rulers and kings and princes, GOd's blessing comes to his people in the form of wise and understanding leaders who have integrity.

This is not God denouncing all young people or women... and it isn't a theological reason to keep women and young people away from leadership roles. Rather, there is an order to things under heaven, whereby God graces a people or a nation with qualified leaders, most often in the form of wise, discerning, strong men who have character.

Being ruled by infants and oppressed by infants seems to point to a scenario where God gives people over to unqualified, incapable leaders who are out of their depth and who are given responsibility way out of proportion with their maturity. The reason this strikes me today is at the national and ecclesiological levels.

I know that America is not the new Israel and this certainly isn't pointing in any way to our current situation. But it gives me a category for God's judgment coming in the form of immature and unqualified leadership. That seems to be very much the situation in the United States these days. We are celebrating young, foolish, unqualified leaders all the time, elevating them beyond their deserved responsibility and giving them credibiility they have not earned. Even beyond that, some of the older political leaders too walk in such immaturity and lack of integrity that it's easy to see this as God's judgement on us, moreso than God's grace to us. I wonder what this says about where our country is in the life cycle of God's judgement.

In terms of continuity, the Church carries more of the mantel of Israel than any nation in the NT. So it also makes me wonder about the state of the Church. This same category is worth considering carefully in regard to local church leadership, where it's common practice to accelerate youthful and unproven leaders into leadership roles without having developed or demonstrated the character required to lead God's people.

There is certainly a responsibility we have to develop young leaders and to empower them in the right ways at the right times, but I wonder if we are sometimes too eager to do so. Youthful, immature leaders in the church, who lack integrity and are not biblically qualified for their roles, are an indictment on us who are leaders in the church. We must be vigilant in raising up leaders, but wise and cautious in our laying on of hands, particularly with young and unproven leaders, both for their protection and the protection of Jesus' church.

We set up leaders for failure and people for misery when we appoint immature and irresponsible leaders to oversee God's people.

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Week 5 Devotional Blog (Jan. 27-Feb. 2)

Day 1

Psalm 1

I love Psalm 1... it's a practically helpful Psalm in terms of the categories it creates and the simplicity of 2 different ways to live and walk before God. But even more so than being practically helpful, it's spiritually damning. When we step back from it and actually consider the tow ways of life characterized and the results of each one, it's terrifying.

What's described in v. 1-2 is the blessed life of a man or woman who does not do things I do, and who does do things I don't do. If we're honest, we do follow a lot of the counsel of the wicked by the worldliness exhibited in our lives and our thinking. We do share common ground with other guilty sinners. We do roll our eyes and thumb our noses at the things of God. And we definitely don't lie awake at night or spend our evening with friends recounting the goodness and beauty of God's commands, or getting more deeply acquainted with his laws. Blessed is the man who does these things sounds great, until we realize we are firmly outside of the scope of the description.

Instead, we're among those can't stand before a Holy God without judgement. We are among those who outside the assembly of the righteous. All alone and taken seriously Psalm 1 is rather haunting. But it belongs in the context of the whole Bible. And the truly blessed man of v. 1 is Jesus. He's the only one who matches that description. And the beauty of the gospel is the undeserving unrighteous of v. 5-6, people like us, have freely received the status and benefits of the blessed man in v. 1-2 from Jesus.

Identification with Christ roots us firmly in soil that is watered by a never-ending stream of God's grace, which keeps us alive and well and flourishing. And with our souls continually nourished by his grace, we're actually empowered to take on, more and more, the characteristics of the blessed man described in v. 1-2. The law is given to reveal our need for grace. But grace is given to cover our guilt and provoke what the Law requires but is unable to produce on it's own.

Psalm 1 is about Jesus and the life available to us in and through Jesus.

Day 2

Psalm 2

Psalm 2 is another kind of scary picture at first glance... God laughing at his enemies and pouring out his wrath. But let's remember this is poetic language and imagery, not literal descriptions of what's happening.

Day 3

Psalm 3

Day 4

Psalm 4

Day 5

Psalm 5

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Week 1 Devotional Blog (Dec. 30-Jan. 5)

Happy New Year to everyone and welcome to 2019!

The last 3 months of 2018 I failed to keep up with my devotional blog as life and ministry took some turns. I assure you I didn't stop reading my Bible, I just had less time to write and reflect through this particular medium. That said, I intend to re-start and maintain this pattern for 2019. So, let's get to it...

Day 1

Introduction: Having spent portions of the last three years preaching through John's Gospel, and most recently spending over 4 months walking through John 11-17, it's interesting to see John's application and fleshing out of so much of what Jesus said and taught, particularly in the private moments of the upper room discourse with his disciples. I said, and do still believe, that so much of what John writes here in his epistle, is making practical and personal sense of Jesus' claims and commands, with the help of the Holy Spirit. So, as we walk through this letter, I'm thinking of it as John expounding and elaborating on Jesus' teaching and applying it to the life of the church.

1 John 1:1-4

This is a rather breathtaking introduction or re-introduction to Jesus, depending on your prior exposure or understanding. I imagine the Apostle, so many years ago, decades past Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension, and he's penning this letter for the building up and shaping of the church, as some of the last apostolic content to be circulated... and he's as convinced as ever about who his friend, Jesus, was and is and the essentialness of knowing him as he is for the sake of our own lives.

Jesus is from the beginning... He has always been. He has always existed. He is eternal. There is no time which precedes Jesus. Which means he is God. This is why John, and the other NT writers, use the term "appearing" or "manifest" in relation to Jesus' incarnation and life. Because Jesus didn't come to be at some point in history, Jesus was presiding over history and simply revealed himself in time and space. That's what John testifies to here...

So when he speaks of Jesus and his life and ministry and teaching, he is speaking of the very life of God, the ministry of God and the teaching of God, concerning reality itself. And he is talking about something he and the other apostles saw visibly, heard audibly, touched physically... meaning he is not talking about spiritual, ethereal, mystical ideas. He is talking about spiritual realities, yes, but they are spiritual realities which ground our understanding of and engagement with the physical universe we inhabit. So these ultimate truths and spiritual realities are not detached from our everyday lives, but rather they are embedded within our everyday lives and they anchor us in our everyday lives if we will view life properly through this filter and adjust accordingly.

John is telling us about life and reality from the perspective of God, revealed in and through Jesus, so that we can align our hearts and minds and lives according to their original and ultimate design. We can't experience life the way God intended until and unless Jesus is at the center. That's where real life begins... when we actually enter into life with God, through faith in Christ.

And life with God means fellowship and intimacy and closeness to the Father, the Son and to all those who are also in fellowship with the Father and Son through faith. When we enter into life with God, we're entering into life with God's people, necessarily. There is no life with God that does not include life with God's people. And any attempt to live life that way is at odds with the life God has invited us into.

Brothers and sisters, this is so important... we can't experience life with God and remain disconnected from God's people. Trying to live and grow as a Christian without being meaningfully involved in a local church is like wanting to get paid for a job you won't do. I'm not saying church is a job or that maturity in Christ is earned, but their is a causal relationship between experiencing deep community and walking faithfully with Jesus. Lone-wolf Christianity, or church-on-the-periphery Christianity, are incongruent and incompatible with real Christianity. To be in Christ is to be a member of Christ's body, the church. And to live as a disembodied member of Christ's body is to harm oneself and the body of Christ severely.

That's why John is writing the things he writes in this letter... he wants us, as members of Christ's body, to know Christ personally and collectively. And he wants us to know how to live in the reality of Christ together so that we can all flourish and that God's mission to rescue and redeem His lost sons and daughters advances through us. And John says that's where his joy and the joy of the apostles is found... in connecting us to the ultimate reality which God has revealed in Jesus, and invited us all into through Jesus.

Prayer:

Father, as this new year begins, would you reveal yourself more powerfully to me and to us as a church than ever before. Help us to see and experience the reality which John witnessed personally and testified to joyfully for our sake. There are many things I want and feel a need for, right now. I have tons of competing desires within my heart. But I confess that my greatest need today, and this year, is and will be to see you more clearly, to know you more deeply, to walk with you more intimately, and to depend on you more desperately. Give me a deeper, richer, fuller experience of life with you this year, I pray. And I ask that you would do that through my deepening relationships with and commitment to your body, the church family you have called me to at Generations. Unite us in our love for you, and for each other, and do among us what only you can do. I ask all this on the basis of Jesus' perfections and for the sake of Jesus' glory in and among us. Amen.

Day 2

1 John 1:5-10

Yesterday we saw that conscious faith in Christ unites us to Jesus, to the Father and to all those who share that same faith in Christ... In these verses John is telling us the essential character of the fellowship we've been brought into. It's a fellowship of Light, because it's a fellowship created by the God who is light and the God gives light, and God in whom there can be no darkness.

John is telling us that our fellowship with God and one another is one of honesty, openness, safety and truth... a fellowship without deceit, hiddenness, fear, and uncertainty. The gospel gives us permission, and even compels us to see ourselves as we really are, at our absolute worst, and to be honest with ourselves and others about our true selves... that is the bleak backdrop against which God's grace and the gospel shine the brightest. When we diminish our sin and guilt and need, we diminish the grace and mercy and provision of Christ.

So a fellowship of light celebrates the total goodness of God to guilty sinners, with the total depravity of each member in full view. There is no need in a community formed by the gospel to hide, pretend, fear or impress... we each bring our need and weakness and moral guilt, and the empty hands of faith while God brings His sovereign and rescuing grace to every one of us, and we're all remade and refreshed by him... None of us has anything to prove or defend. We just come in utter depenedency and desperation to God, and we daily return and remain in that place, so that we can get our lives back from Him who gave His own life for us.

The only way we continue to experience the grace of God and live in the felt love of God and enjoy connection and belonging among the people of God is to continue to confess our sin and weakness and unbelief to God... to repent and believe again and again in the finished work of Jesus. We savor the sweetness of God's kindness and we taste and see the goodness of the Lord only as we receive him continually on his terms... through the empty hands of repentance and faith.

We fear that honesty about our limitations and failures, and admitting or exposing our own weakness will isolate us from people and leave us alienated. But John is confronting that wretched belief and giving us a new thought that makes no sense to our natural mind. He's saying that being real and honest about ourselves and with others is actually the doorway through which we travel in order to find rich fellowship with God and life giving connection with others. 1 John 1:5-10 is the basis for a social environment characterized by the Gospel, Safety and Time. That's what we're called to cultivate personally, create collectively, and protect vigilantly.

Prayer:

Father, let me never grow tired of seeing myself as I am so that I always have the lens through which I can see you as you are. Don't let me obscure your grace by diminishing my guilt. Let me always delight to bring myself in total dependency to you and let me always resolve to walk openly with my brothers and sisters that surround me. Give me the commitment and courage and humility to be known truly, so you can be seen clearly, rather than to grope after impressiveness. Let me be content and glory in the fact of weakness and need before you, so that your provision for my need to draw others to you. Amen.

Day 3

1 John 2:1-6

Continuing in the thought stream from yesterday, this is so counter-intuitive. John seems to indicate that his emphasis on our need to identify and confess our sin is the catalyst to our putting sin to death. In other words, the more we acknowledge our sin, the less we will sin. Sin draws it's life from hiddenness and pretense, and it's power is diminished and defeated when it is brought into the light. Everything in me fears talking about my sin, and wants to downplay sin, and thinks sins greatest harm will be done when others know about it...

But again, the truth John is teaching us is that it's in our admission of sin that Jesus' defeat of sin is personalized... his righteousness is applied to us, when our unrighteousness is owned by us. We live in the reality of Christ's atonement for our sin, only when we bring ourselves under the covering of his atonement. To receive and live in the benefits of union with Christ, we must exercise and keep exercising the instruments given to us to be joined to Christ... and that's conscious repentance for personal moral sin and guilt, and the empty hands of awakened faith in Jesus Christ alone and his completed work... that's the basis, and the only basis, of our life with God.

The next few verses connect us to the fruit of repentance and faith. That's how we must walk continually before the Lord and as we do, it will produce a visible holiness of life. We will keep growing toward Christlikeness, imperfectly but observably, as we remain in a posture of repentance and faith toward Jesus, and submission and openness to God's Word. It's through gazing into the living word of God and beholding the risen Son of God that we come to experience the fullness of life with God... His love and grace and presence and power are increasingly realized and personalized to anyone of us who will continually adjust their life to Him.

Prayer: Lord, than you for giving me the righteousness of Jesus... for applying the perfections of your son to a wretch like me, so that I too could be your son. I rejoice in your holiness, and the holiness of Jesus that has made me holy. I give thanks for the righteousness of Jesus that has made me righteousness before you... and I ask you know to help me embody today the holiness and perfections which have already been applied to me through Christ's blood. Let me actually walk in a manner worthy of Him today. I am utterly unable to walk uprightly before you and yet you have given your Spirit to do the impossible in me... so I submit myself today to your Spirit, in the hopes that I might walk, by His power, as Jesus walked by the same power. Amen.

Day 4

1 John 2:7-14

v. 7-11 - John has spoken about keeping God's commandments, without specifying any one commandment. Then he says he's writing "no new commandment, but an old commandment..." However, there is newness in the old commandment, which he says, we've had from the beginning. So what is new in the reiteration of the old commandment? Jesus.

Before the life and ministry of Jesus, the impact of God's commands condemned us. The law of God was an albatross around our neck weighing us down because of our inability to keep it and even our inclination to reject it. But in Jesus, that weight is lifted... his fulfillment of the law on our behalf removes the accusation of the law which fosters resentment in us, and instead reveals the goodness which motivates our obedience. The grace we receive in and through Jesus allows us to see the beauty of the law and the joy of obedience without the threat of condemnation hanging over us.

John is saying that the reality of Jesus, and life with God through faith in Jesus, allows us to see the commands of God as they really are... as a pathway into the fullness of life. Jesus frees us from the demands of God so we will actually desire God... only the gospel can bring this kind of clarity to our confusion, and only the gospel can generate the obedience which the law requires but can never produce. Grace gives us the ability to see God's heart for us, and the power to walk in step with God's design for us.

v. 12-14 - I just would emphasize here, John's identification of three distinct stages of development, and the responsibility we bear in those stages. More seasoned people (not old people) seem to be responsible to maintain a proper perspective. They are to be steadfast and unflinching and reassuring during the uncertanties of life, grounded in truth and not swayed by emotions.

Young men are to allow their fighting spirit to drive their spiritual engagement... to wage war against sin, to stand firm against temptation and accusation, to be bold and courageous in their faith. They are to be on the front lines of spiritual battle and giving energy and force to representing and advancing the kingdom fo God.

Children are to be rooted in the simplicity of the gospel, and in the centrality of God's glory, and in the love of the Father... their identity in Christ. These seem to be areas of emphasis for these different stages of life and development which are worthy of our consideration and cultivation.

Day 5

1 John 2:15-17

These 3 verses are so loaded with insight that we would never come to on our own. We deeply resist taking these words as seriously as we should, especially when considering the stark picture they paint…

v. 15 is an outright rejection of our morally ambiguous culture. John is not speaking of outward behaviors, but internal affections, and he’s saying that what we cherish and value, and the hierarchy of what we cherish and value is morally charged. The notion that all loves, values and affections are incidental or acceptable or equally valid is categorically false. The idea that our attraction to whoever or impulse for whatever is acceptable or legitimate, is outright denied. To love that which is in the world and internal to us which is not of the Father, is evidence that we have not yet encountered the fullness of the Father’s love.

The connection here is powerful. John is saying that the Father’s love, while it is unlimited in measure toward us, is limiting in it’s impact on us… we can’t love the Father and live under the love of the Father without hating other things. In some sense, the worldly conception of love is exactly the opposite… the world’s version of love is broadly applied but heavily conditioned. The world hates the idea that loving God would keep us from affirming anyone else in their life and choices. Love, they say, should cause us to endorse everything. And only thing we can’t endorse for anyone is the withholding of their endorsement of someone. Love, God’s word says, demands the rejection and repudiation of a great many things in order to love him and that which he loves.

v. 16 goes on to explore the love of the world more specifically… John says the love of the world consists in what we are drawn to physically and visually as well a emotionally… It’s about what indulges my appetites, what captures my eye, and what makes me feel better about me. If our lives and the lives of others are about the pursuit of self and indulgence of self than they are inherently opposed to the Father.

v. 17, John says it’s temporarily satisfying but ultimately hollow. Sin and self has it’s moments of pleasure to be sure, but it also always has a gotcha. The love of the world is the preference of corrupted versions of what comes from the Father over and against what actually comes from the Father and leads us into life with the Father.

John is telling us to pay careful attention to what we ascribe worth and value to; what we pursue and chase after; what we cherish and hold dear; what we long for and orient our lives toward. Our affections are never morally neutral or without consequence. What we love will determine the direction and trajectory of our lives, and as v. 17 tells us, of our eternity. There is life that leads to life and life that leads to death.

Day 6

1 John 2:18-25

In this passage John is writing to true believers in Jesus about those opposed to Jesus, though some of them identified as followers of Jesus. And he’s saying that real followers of Jesus keep following Jesus. Those who claimed to follow Jesus, even those who genuinely thought they were following Jesus, if they no longer follow Jesus were only ever following some version of Jesus they developed or customized for themselves. To encounter the real Jesus in a saving way is to be bound to Jesus for eternal life. But there is a kingdom of darkness that hates Jesus and wants to undermine peoples faith in Jesus and one of the chief ways he does that is not just to rage against Jesus but to counterfeit Jesus. The spirit of antichrist is in the world to cause people to settle for a version of Jesus that actually centers on the self in a way that ruins them for the real Jesus who calls us to crucify the self in order that his life may take root in us.

John is provoking an urgency for those who are true believers, those in whom the Spirit of Jesus is alive and well, pleading with them to be diligent and vigilant about their pursuit of Christ… he’s reminding us that a peace time mentality is a danger to our souls because we live at a time with war raging all around us and within us and to passively exist in that war leaves us vulnerable to the enemies attacks. Though satan and his efforts cannot undermine our salvation, by making us indifferent regarding our salvation, he can undermine our fruitfulness and faithfulness. So, let’s live right now, this day, in the present alive to the future we have with the Father for all eternity… let’s live in the darkness of this moment by the light of our eternal reality.

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