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1 John 2:28-29

John has emphasised to his readers the importance of a close walk with their Father who loves them. (1 John 1:3) He has spoken about the "anointing" of the Holy Spirit and the confirmation of the truth about the gospel message that His presence provides. (1 John 2:20-21) Now he just wants to reinforce the truth that the only way forward is to "remain" in both the Father and the Son and to keep on keeping on. John does not seek to control his readers. As he has reminded them, they have the Holy Spirit so they are quite able to stand on their own and receive teaching from Him alone. This is a timely message for us today. Many believers are only too happy to look for others to teach them or to read all sorts of books, rather than open their own bibles and take time to allow God to speak to them through His Spirit. A good check for us is to add up how much time we spend reading secular magazines, newspapers or books, compared to Scripture. Is our Father happy with that balance in our lives?

In John’s gospel (John 15:1-16), Jesus talked about how important it is to remain in Him. How vital it is for our daily lives! We cannot live the Christian life by ourselves, in our own strength. We looked at this in some depth in the previous study on the "anointing" of the Holy Spirit. “Dwell in Me and I will dwell in you. Live in Me and I will live in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself, without abiding in [vitally united to] the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4) Do we really want to live out our Christian lives just focused on ourselves, or do we want to be fruitful for eternity? Jesus must be as essential to us as the air that we breathe. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and the life, which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Grafted in

Our main responsibility in the Christian life is to "abide" (remain) in Jesus. For us to live in Christ and to allow Him to live in us, we have to be vitally united to Him. Those who are gardeners will be familiar with the idea of grafting one plant onto another. This is usually done to allow one plant's qualities of fruiting or flowering to be supported by the roots of another that can provide vigour and resilience. It follows on from what Jesus was talking about in chapter fifteen of John's gospel: think of a vine branch being grafted into the main trunk. This is what God has done with us. When we first turned to Jesus and accepted His gift of salvation, God grafted us into Him. At the time, we may have thought that our decision to follow Jesus was ours alone but, as we look back at that moment with the benefit of hindsight, we see that the Holy Spirit had been at work in us for some time already. The same principle continues to apply, even after we have become Christians and start to think about "fruit-bearing". It sometimes seems as though we have to work hard at being Christians, but that's not really how it is. When we have been grafted in to Jesus (the Vine), the "sap" (the life) flows from Him, through us, and the fruit begins to grow. It is the gardener (God Himself) who equips us to bear a certain type of fruit and sets us in the right place to do so. Then, so long as we remain in Jesus, the life-giving sap will run through us, leading eventually to mature fruit. (Matthew 4:19; Ephesians 2:8-9)

When we realise this and get the truth of it in our hearts, we can rest in God’s love and allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in and through us, as we learn to stay vitally united to Jesus. (Galatians 5:16-18) John points out that the way to do this is to focus on "what we heard from the beginning". (1 John 2:24) We need constantly to be learning more deeply the great and majestic truths that we have been aware of from the start: the nature and character of God the Father; the living example of His Son, Jesus, who sacrificed His own life but was raised again by the Father; the meaning of terms such as "atonement" and "sanctification"; the hope that all Christians have of being raised with Jesus in glory; the character, nature and work of the Holy Spirit, who burns in our hearts. Unless we remain in Jesus, we can become quite blasé to these amazing truths.

Perseverance

It is so important for us to keep going as Christians. We saw in the last lesson how we are open to "antichrists" and deceivers when we become bored, dissatisfied, disappointed or lazy in our relationship with God. It is not the modern thing to stick in a love relationship where we are not "feeling" very loving, but that is just the time when we need to refocus our time and energy onto Jesus Himself. How we do this is different for everybody, but here are some suggestions for keeping things real:

  • Get together with another believer who shares your desire to stay "on fire";
  • Go on a "retreat" (really an advance!) to devote "quality time" to God;
  • Take part in a a day of "soaking prayer";
  • Fast and pray for believers in a country where Christians are persecuted;
  • Read a "testimony" - an account of another believer's memorable experience with God.

God wants us to be "on fire" for Him all the time, just as He is equally passionate about us. (Revelation 3:15) The apostle, Paul, warned Timothy: "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands." (2 Timothy 1:6) We all need to be reminded occasionally that perseverance is vital. Jesus reminds us that we shall receive a prize if we persevere and that can serve to motivate us. Jesus Himself kept going, through the trial and crucifixion, for the joy of being with His Father. Let's follow His example: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2) He knew the prize that He would receive: the joy of seeing all the Father’s beloved children, His sisters and brothers, living with them for eternity. It encouraged Him to keep going. Matthew records in his "gospel" (chapter 24) that Jesus warned His disciples about the time at the "end of the age". He spoke of violent upheavals and increasing wickedness throughout the world. (Matthew 24:4-14) This period will be tough going, but we have hope of our salvation if we stick in there. As believers today, we can expect difficult times that will test our faith to the limit and sort out real Christians from false, "fair-weather" Christians. Let's not turn our backs on Him. We have so much to look forward to in eternity and we have His example in accepting God's will for Him, even though it meant shame, pain and, finally, crucifixion. His path, led ultimately to resurrection and restoration to His Father. Let's be thankful and let's keep telling Him how grateful we are!

1 John 2:28

"When He appears"

When Jesus returns to our world, shall we be ashamed or lacking in confidence? This is such an important message. The parable of the sower describes how the good news about Jesus is received by different people. When we stand before Jesus, our own response to that message will be evident. Will the fruit that we have borne give proof of the "good soil" that was our life? The greatest horror would be for Jesus to say: "I never knew you." (Matthew 7:23) Are we simply good, regular church-goers or are we fruit-bearing vines? God wants us to be confident of our place in eternity with Him. We can have that confidence if we live by His word and by faith in all that Jesus has done. Let's be sure that we really are confident and don't fall for the devil's lies, sowing doubt in our minds about whether or not Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for our sin and whether or not we have been saved. If we continue with Him, we shall be unashamed when He comes again. We shall know with certainty that we are saved. We shall stand before His judgement seat and He will say to us: "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21) It will not be because of anything good we have done, but because of all that Jesus has done through us. If Jesus were to return today, what would He say to us? Would we be able to stand before Him, confident and unashamed?

1 John 2:29

"He is righteous"

This verse can seem confusing. Is it saying that those who do what is right must be Christians? Who says what is "right"? Because all human beings are born with a damaged nature - inheriting Adam's sin - our natural reaction is to please ourselves and our instinct is to define for ourselves what is "right" or "wrong". In reality, "righteousness" is all about our right standing with God. This is not about living a good life or doing what is right - even by God's definition. Having a "right standing" with God is all about our relationship with Him through faith in Jesus. "Everything that does not come from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) There is a whole spiritual perspective to "righteousness" which includes worship, belief and commitment to Jesus Christ.

We cannot go to God and demand acceptance on the ground of our good works. God clearly states that all our "good works" are as filthy rags. "For we have all become like one who is unclean [ceremonially, like a leper], and all our righteousness [our best deeds of rightness and justice] is like filthy rags or a polluted garment; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away [far from God's favour, hurrying us toward destruction]." (Isaiah 64:6 Amplified Version)

Our faith in Christ is worked out in the good deeds that He has planned for us to do. "Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, 'Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!' You then walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup. Where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that 'God-talk' without 'God-acts' is outrageous nonsense?" (James 2:14-17 The Message Version)

This describes what our loving Father expects from us as we walk in righteousness. "I tell you that, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20) To some, who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector as a warning that good works are not enough. (Luke 18:9-14)

How can we be righteous?

We become righteous by exchanging our sin for Christ’s "right standing" with God and trusting Jesus Christ that His offering was big enough to wash away all our sin. No matter how bad our sins are by God’s standard, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) God wants us to be so in love with Him that we are desperate to be righteous. Then He promises to fill us with Himself.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)
"Abram believed the Lord and He credited it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)

So, the faith that we place in God and His word and all that Jesus has done for us is what makes us righteous. Honouring Jesus in all we do shows that righteousness is so much more than just being a good person.


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