“Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:7-8, NLT).
We are all familiar with hypocrites—we’ve been there and done that at least once or twice in our lives. It’s easy to talk about being loving and forgiving, but it’s really hard to do it, especially with what one author/speaker calls sandpaper people.
It’s no surprise Jesus lived the commandment to love others. He is after all, the giver of the commandment and he wouldn’t tell us to do something he wasn’t able to do as a human. John noted here the recipients of his letter were also living it, so we know it’s possible, with the help and strength of the Holy Spirit. By reminding us Jesus lived it out, John gives us another clue about who God is—someone who doesn’t make unreasonable demands on his children, but a loving God who shows us how it’s done and gives us the help to do it.
“And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us” (1 John 4:13, NLT).
Doubting is part of being human, especially when it comes to God. Many have a hard time believing God because they can’t see him or prove his existence scientifically. He doesn’t fit into any formula and isn’t re-creatable in a lab. Even believers sometimes have doubts. Grace seems too good to be true, so how can it be?
Remember when Thomas asked to see the nail holes in Jesus’ palms? Jesus didn’t get upset or chastise him. He merely showed him the scars. We are all like Thomas and we have doubts about many things. This verse tells us God isn’t upset and he understands our doubting nature and our weakness. Because he loves us he provides proof through his Spirit that we live in him and he lives in us. This is one more example of how much God cares about us and for us—he doesn’t mind answering our doubts, and he does it with himself!
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2, NLT).
If you’re like most people, the concept of heaven, while desirable, leaves a lot of questions. What will we do there? Will we really play harps? Will we get bored? Will we have church all the time? As a child, heaven didn’t intrigue me very much as I didn’t have anything to grab with my imagination.
This verse gives us something to hold onto. We know Jesus could walk through walls, appear and disappear, and make a fire, cook and eat food. Sounds like a sci-fi movie, doesn’t it? Haven’t we all watched movies or read books with characters like this and wished we could do that? The good news is we will be able to do all those things and more. I’m sure boredom won’t even be a word anymore. Our imaginations can’t even begin to touch what heaven will really be like, and that’s good news.
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it” (1 Peter 3:9, NLT).
It’s such a human thing to do – to want to pay back hurt for hurt. Sadly it seems to make the world go ’round even more than love. Payback keeps the police busy, the hospitals full on a Saturday night and people everywhere from reconciliation.
Payback is also God’s way, but he has paid us back by blessing us with salvation. Christ died for us while we were his enemies and under the curse of sin and all its repercussions. He has paid us back with incredible blessings, and asks us to do the same to others. May we learn to be a blessing as we have been blessed.
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (James 4:8a, NLT).
Sometimes when we get too close to people, children or animals, they back up in distrust. So we’ll hold out our hands, either empty to signify no threat, or with a treat to show our good will. This certainly works with kids and dogs! Adults often take a little more convincing because we’ve all been fooled or hurt by those with bad intentions.
We already know God understands us, welcomes us and will never be deceitful in his intentions. This verse tells us all we have to do is move close to him and he will come close to us. He doesn’t back away, wondering what we might have up our sleeves and we don’t have to wonder if he has any tricks up his either. God is more responsive to us than we can ever imagine. All we have to do is move one millimeter in his direction to experience his closeness, but even if we have trouble moving, he’s always right beside us, closer than our own heartbeat.
“This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began” (Titus 1:2, NLT).
How do you know if a politician is lying? If his lips are moving. Old joke, but it does come to mind a lot during an election year. The world might stop turning if politicians began telling the truth.
Even if everyone is a liar, and we all are to some extent, either to ourselves or others, God can be counted on to be true (Romans 3:4). We can trust what he says and does because there’s nothing deceitful in him. He couldn’t be otherwise. God is true and his word is true. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and the Holy Spirit leads us to the Truth. Praise God we can always trust him.
“He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17, NLT). “There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle” (The Message).
I enjoy words and their meanings. I’m always looking them up in the dictionary or thesaurus to either make sure I understand exactly what they mean, or to find similar words to expand on the meaning. So I looked up fickle. It’s not commonly used today, but it’s still a great word. It means likely to change, especially due to caprice, irresolution, or instability; casually changeable: fickle weather. Also not constant or loyal in affections: fickle lover (dictionary.com).
God is not fickle, though he is often portrayed this way in movies and books. I guess anthropomorphizing God into a capricious, unstable entity makes a better story than showing him the way he really is – someone we can hold onto and trust to never play with our emotions or our lives, someone who is a rock of stability in a world of shifting sand.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NLT).
It’s rare for people to stay married for very long, if they even get married. Many think it’s not necessary, especially when chances of getting a divorce are pretty high. Love just doesn’t seem to last.
There is one love that lasts and it can be counted on for all eternity. It’s love you can’t get rid of even if you try. The love God has for his children (all of humanity) is stronger than super glue and it’s impossible to get unstuck from it. It’s so strong, deep, high and wide he sent his son to become one of us and die for it, for us, to save us. His love lasts forever.
“For in him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28a, NLT).
For too many, Christians and non-Christians alike, religion has been and still is a “them and us” kind of thing. A lot of Christians seem to put up walls around themselves and only let people in when they say the magic words. Those on the outside get a bad impression and decide God must be like that too.
When Paul made the above statement, he was speaking to the men of Athens, who had no idea who God was and in fact, worshiped pagan gods of their own making. He made it clear they were included in the very life of the God who wasn’t made with human hands and needed no temple, in fact had no needs at all. And all they needed to do was change directions and turn to him. There are no walls, no them and us in Christ who made the way to the Father accessible to everyone. In him we, every single person on earth, live and move and exist.
“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart'” (John 7:37b, 38, NLT).
We all know what it feels like to be thirsty. We experience it every day. Fortunately for most of us, satisfying our thirst is easy and quick.
Perhaps Jesus used this imagery because he knew we could all relate to being thirsty, and not just physically but spiritually as well. Just as we sometimes don’t recognize how thirsty we are until we become dehydrated, many don’t recognize or understand how spiritually dry they are. Fortunately, Jesus has made it easy to satisfy that thirst too, and all we have to do is go to him. Not only will he take care of our needs, but the Living Water that is the Holy Spirit will splash on others and give them relief too.