1 John 5:1-5
John establishes unequivocally that there is connective between belief in Jesus, love for the Father, love for one another and obedience to God's commands. Real belief in Jesus, real Christianity, isn't the perfection of these things in us, but it will produce the reflection of htese things in us. In ohter words, the life of ths Spirit in us, will cause us to both affirm the interconnectedness of these things, apply effort to the incremental growth in them.
Also, I've been thinking on v. 3... "His commands are not burdensome."
I wonder if that has been your experience. It certainly hasn't been mine all the time. I have felt burdened by and even resentful toward God's commands. So, whenever I find my experience to be completely inconsistent with what the Scriptures say, it always causes me to wrestle. Because I take God at his word, and I trust the Scriptures, my wrestling is not with what is true, but with why my reality deviates from what is actually real according to Him. This is pointing to something in my own heart and life which needs thoughtful reflection and prayerful consideration.
So, I'm going to work through this a bit and write a blog during the week. You can look for some thoughts on that. For now, I hope at least to demonstrate how God graciously uses his word to confront our hearts. And if we'll concede that when his word clashes with our lives, there isn't a real question of who is in error.
v. 17-21 provide a sort of prologue to 30 sayings of the wise that will be delivered, running from v. 22 through half of chapter 24. There is lots here that may jump out to anyone, but what stuck out to me was v. 24-25, saying #2: "Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle youself in his snare."
This is personal to me because I struggle so much with anger and have all my life. I want to be the kind of man people are free to befriend, and my temper could make me the kidn of person that others should keep a distance from. It's also an admonition for me to be wise in my choice of friends, particularly those I choose to be closest to.
- Perhaps these are questions worth asking of yourself. Are you the kind of person that wise people can walk closely with? Are your choices of friends influencing you toward a peacable spirit, or those who normalize outrage and a critical spirit?
1 John 5:6-12
I'm not gonna lie... this text will stretch your brain and force you to think a little. I want to try to simplify this passage.
Both the OT Law, and Greek culture, taught that matters were established by the testimony of 2-3 witnesses. John has established that he and the other Apostles were eyewitnesses to what he proclaims about Jesus, so there is some degree of credibility just in that. But this passage is essentially saying that they are not our most reliable witnesses. There is a more credible testimony that substantiates the claims of Christ... and they are the Spirit, the water and the blood.
Spirit - Jesus was conceived by the Spirit, filled with the Spirit and ministered in the power of the Spirit.
Water - Jesus was anointed through water baptism, and at that event, commissioned for the work of redemption which he came to accomplish. It was at this event also, that the Spirit descended on Christ visibly, and that the voice of the Father affirmed Jesus as His Son and the Messiah audibly.
Blood - The blood of Jesus poured out for us, cleanses us and cries out for our salvation rather than our condemnation. It is by his blood that reconciliation with God is made possible, and that the Father's love is manifest clearly and completely.
John is saying that while man's testimony is of some value, it is God's testimony that is of highest value. John's testimony, and the Apostolic witness to the gospel is not ultimately authoritative because they saw for themselves, but that what they saw confirmed what God has revealed. The Holy Spirit, the baptism of Jesus and the ministry that ensued by the Father's authority and empowering of the Spirit, and the atoning blood of Jesus at the Cross, all confirm God's testimony.
The Gospel is good news for people. But it's not ultimately from people. It's from God. It's been his message from the beginning. That though we are guilty sinners we have a gracious Savior who is able to redeem and rescue us for His glorious and eternal purposes and our everlasting joy.
v. 15, 24 - Both of these verses speak to the joy and delight of a father who has wise children. For me as a dad, I have to be careful with the idea that it's my kids responsibility to make me glad, and should I be glad then they prove they are wise. I could twist this to make conformity to my will the aim of wisdom for my children, which actually nurtures dysfunction and idolatry.
Instead, I must give myself to nurturing a value and appetite for wisdom in my children, which really seeks conformity to the will of God, not the will of dad. We parents must recognize that a child compelled to please mom and dad undermine their need to please the Lord. Wisdom in our kids will necessarily take them away from dependence upon us and a need to please us. And should they exhibit such wisdom, may we rejoice in the mercy of God.
1 John 5:13-17
I'm personally really convicted by how I instinctively respond to v. 14-15. John encourages to ask, with confidence, anything according to God's will, and he hears us. And he doesn't just say God hears it as in it reaches his ears, but that he hears us in that he responds by granting the request.
But I'm troubled by my own attitude and thinking. I immediately start to think in terms of limitations to this or poking holes in it. I start building arguments against "name it and claim it" theology. My predisposition is to ask for little, expect little, and explain why asking or expecting for more or bigger things is silly. My faith is so small at times.
Here's what I'm thinking about today and asking you to think about today. I often imagine barriers to God's power and purposes that betray his promises. I'm convicted that so much of what I pray for and believe God for is framed by my imagination of what I can accomplish.
- But what am I asking God to do, and believing for God that is within his clear will and outside of my own potential?
- If I could ask him for anything that is consistent with his revealed will, and know for certain he would grant the request, what would I ask him for?
May we be more convinced of what we believe, and of him on whom we have believed, so that we might be more bold in our asks.
A few questions from v. 3-7:
Are your life and relationships characterized by stability, peace and joy?
Are your decisions made in isolation? or are they weighed with counsel and differing perspectives?
Do you hope to be ignored by and distant from wise people, or do you seek them out and learn from them?
The answers to these questions will give you some real indication of whether you are walking in wisdom or following the path of the fool.
1 John 5:18-21
I keep on sinning. You keep on sinning. John kept on sinning too. So when he says in v. 18 that everyone born of God does not keep sinning, what is he talking about? As we covered earlier in this letter, John is saying that we who are born of God, who are clothed in Christ and covered by his blood, who are filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we cannot keep on sinning with a free and clear conscience. Our struggles with sin will trouble on our hearts. We will experience conviction. Our souls will be restless where sin persists.
You are not and will not be perfect. That's okay, because Jesus is. What's so amazing is that we are being perfected. Do yourself a favor today. Take a minute to conisder your progress.
- What sin, foolishness or distractions have lost their taste over time?
- What practices, habits or dysfunction has God freed you from?
- What powerful worldly influence has God triumphantly deliered you from?
- What lies you once believed has God graciously exposed by the truth of the gospel?
Rejoice, Christian. There are idols all around you, even some of which you once worshipped and lived for, and to which multitudes still give their allegiance, but you've been given eyes to see their worthlessness and fraudulent character. You allegiance is to the real King. You are in Christ. You have new life. Eternal life. Abundant life. The very life of God. Find your worth in that today. Find your identity in that.
v. 12 - It strikes me there is a responsibility on us to learn wisdom. But there is also a responsibility to teach wisdom. Wisdom is not solely about the content what we know, it's also about the delivery and dissemination of what we know. Part of wisdom is knowing how to share that wisdom effectively with others.
If you consider yourself wise, then have the wisdom to consider, and maybe ask someone close to you, whether your manner of speaking into others' lives is an obstacle to their learning, or an enriching of their learning? When you give counsel and correction, do people receive it, or recoil at it?
v. 4-5 are paradoxical and require wisdom to apply rightly. I love that Solomon stacks these two insights right on top of each other so that we cannot avoid there contradiction.
v. 4 is this warning of entering into an argument, discussion, debate with a fool on the fools terms. Fools tend to drag people down around them. They lower everyone's standard. We have to be careful and wise in how, when and if we answer a fool.
v. 5 says just the opposite. That there is a time when we must not let the lofty thoughts and ideas of foolish people be left unanswered. Wisdom is sometimes dispatched to expose folly. Fools will make bold claims and definitive statements and they will see silence as affirmation of their wisdom. They need to be challenged sometimes, and questioned.
A wise person will be aware of both the trap and the opportunity and discern whether to engage or not bother.
Also, v. 12 is just super important. The height of folly is thinking one self wise. That is, that wisdom is always more aware of wisdom it lack than wisdom it possesses. And the wise person is always driven to gain still more wisdom.
v. 17 - There is not a lot explicitly on wisdom in this chapter, but this verse is worth noting because of it's popularity and misguided sentimentalism. Most people take "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpen's another" to be some sweet affirmation of deep friendship. But consider the metaphor.
Iron sharpening iron is not peaceful, quiet, pleasant, or gentle. Iron sharpening iron is violent. It's loud, noisy, disorienting and exhausting. Men should take special note of this, though it certainly applies to all of us. We are sharpened by people who are willing to enter into conflict, to confront, to challenge, to rebuke, and say hard things. We need people who won't only be gentle with us, but who will also be truthful with us. We need toughness to stick through adversity and difficulty and chaos. We need people committed to us when life isn't easy and when relationships aren't easy.
This is depicting friendship. It's just not soft and gooey friendship. It's real and raw friendship. Men we need friends like these to be sharpened.
- Who in your life is iron that sharpens you?
- Who do you trust enough to receive hard things from?
- Who is so committed to you that no matter how painful and hard life gets, they will stand with you?
- What can you do to nurture friendships that fit this metaphor?
v. 26 Are you trusting your own wisdom or God's wisdom? Here's the best way to know...
- Are you conforming your life to the word of God? or are you following your own impulses and instincts?
If you aren't reading the word, learning the word, and mindful of the word, there is no way you're trusting the wisdom of God. If all you have are your own thoughts then you are trusting in your own mind, and you are by Solomon's definition, a fool. Even if that's you today, you can be delivered from that as you start to confront your own thinking with God's thoughts revealed in Scripture.