Monday, December 24, 2012

For Everyone Who Thinks They Love Jesus

So you think that you're in love with Jesus? You think, because you go to church and get emotional during the worship songs once a week, that your relationship with Him is ok? Do you believe that His grace covers everything you do? Well, let's see if that's the case! After all, 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified." There are a few tests in the book of 1 John that every believer needs to apply to their life.

The first test can be seen in verses 6 and 7 of chapter 1...
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."

You can claim that you're walking in the light, but walking in the light equals fellowship with other believers. If you're not in consistent fellowship with other believers - if you think you can be an island to yourself - then you're not walking in the light and you're lying if you say you have fellowship with Jesus. 

Remember this equation: unbroken fellowship with Jesus = unbroken fellowship with other believers.

The second test is in chapter 2, verses 3 through 6
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandmentsHe who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."

You can't claim to know Jesus if you're not doing what He said! In this passage, John is basically repeating what Jesus told him in John 14:15 ("If you love me, keep my commandments."), John 14:21 ("He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me."), and John 15:10 ("If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.").

Jesus gave us the way to measure our love for Him: love = obedience.

Does God's grace forgive us when we don't obey? Of course - but that isn't the extent of His grace! If we are truly in grace, then we won't stay in sin! God's grace also teaches us to leave sin behind (Titus 2:12) and empowers us to do what's right (Hebrews 12:28). If you're using grace as an excuse for sin - you do not love Jesus!

A third test can be seen in chapter 3, verse 14
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death."

You can't say that you have a new life in Jesus if you're nursing a grudge against one of your brothers or sisters. If you refuse to forgive another believer, if you still feel even a hint of hatred in your heart toward them - you're still in death, not life.

But, lest you get confused about what kind of love you should have, John goes on to clarify the type of love we should have for our brothers and sisters. A lot of people know John 3:16 - but very few people know 1 John 3:16 - "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

As completely as Jesus gave Himself for us, we are commanded to give ourselves to our brothers and sisters. Does Jesus hold you at arm's length when you sin against Him? Would He avoid you in Walmart if He saw you? Do you think He ever has a smirk on His face when He talks about you?

If anyone had a right to be angry and hold a grudge against us, it was Jesus! But He gave up His rights and laid down His life for us. This is the kind of love we're called to have for our brothers and sisters. Whether we feel like it or not, whether they deserve it or not, we must love anyone who is of the household of faith. You don't have a choice, my friend - this is the price of living in the light!

So there are three tests. There are more throughout first John - but how do you measure up to these three?

Do you stay in fellowship with other believers or have you isolated yourself?

Do you obey God's Word or do you try to use His grace to excuse what you know is wrong?

Do you love other believers and give up your rights for theirs, or are you still nursing anger and unforgiveness toward someone?

You can't get around this! This is how you know!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Real Miracle Of Christmas

Philippians 2:6-8
Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

The true miracle of Christmas isn't simply that a virgin had a baby boy. It wasn't the star that led the wise men or the angels that announced His birth to the shepherds. The true miracle of Christmas is that God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, left His divine throne and position in Heaven and became a man - entering the body of a baby boy. Jesus isn't just the Son of God - He is God the Son!! He wasn't just another man, not even a very good man.

This Christmas story can also be seen in John 1:1 and 14:
"In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God."
"So the Word became human and made his home among us."
Jesus, God the Word, stripped Himself of His divine privileges, and clothed Himself with our humanity. He deliberately chose to forget His infinite knowledge and experience what it is to learn. He let Himself become dependent on a human mother and father. He let Himself be subject to two fallible humans - that were themselves made by Him!

Only when we realize who Jesus is and how incredible the first Christmas was, will we truly be able to understand the next passage in Philippians 2: 9-11
"Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." 

Jesus is not a religious leader. He can't be compared to Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, or Joseph Smith. He isn't an angel or simply a man. He isn't some sort of demi-god like Hercules or Theseus. He is God! He is matchless, incomparable, infinite, without beginning or end!

Joseph was only His stepfather. Mary was only the mother of Jesus' humanity. Bethlehem wasn't His beginning - He can be found throughout the Old Testament as well!

So my question to you is this: Do you really know why you're celebrating that baby in a manger?