1 John 4:1-6 – Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Christ by Carl Abrahams
Christ by Carl Abrahams, 1911-2005

My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.

Here’s how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ—the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person—comes from God and belongs to God. And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God. This is the spirit of antichrist that you heard was coming. Well, here it is, sooner than we thought!

My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world’s language and the world eats it up. But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception. (MSG)

The Apostle John gave some spiritually sage advice to a group of his disciples. They were being influenced by people who claimed Christian faith yet were not the real deal. Lots of people make claims, but the real muster of a Christian is in embracing an embodied spirituality that truly meets the holistic needs of others.

For John, there was no room for the Platonic Greek dualism of body and spirit. Jesus was a real man with a very real body. To deny this was to deny the faith. Ethereal musings about the insignificance of the body were flatly rejected by John. The apostle was concerned that the supreme Christian ethic of love be practiced through attention to both body and soul.  This means words are not enough; actual demonstrations of love are needed to communicate Christ to others.

I will be the first guy to insist on some deep theological reflection on the great spiritual, cultural, and social issues of our day. Yet, if our theology does not lead to tangible acts of love based on that reflection, then we have not yet been called God’s friend. Correct doctrine will always lead to loving actions of faith.

We are to glorify God with both speech and service, and never just one without the other.

The early church councils condemned the denigration of Christ’s full humanity for good reason. Not only did Jesus have a real flesh and body experience while on this earth, Christ did actual flesh and body healing and actual physical miracles. In other words, Jesus Christ met both the spiritual needs of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the needs of the body. What is more, Jesus had no ranking system, as if the spiritual needs were the real commitments whereas tangible needs were just a means to the end of meeting intangible obligations.

The Gospel is both body and soul and are equally together significant.

To exalt one above the other is, frankly, heresy. So, let’s put this in more practical terms: Love is more than an expression of good feelings and goodwill toward others; love has skin on, using both physical actions and words formed from our vocal chords to bring goodness to others.

Jesus never separated or parsed out a distinction between spiritual and physical needs. No, that would be us who have done that. To be more specific, it is the spiritual charlatan and the huckster preacher who speak out of one side of their mouths about spiritual salvation with no bodily human help or uplift. Those who are against Jesus, the spirit of the antichrist, talk a good line but when push comes to shove, they have no intention of paying attention to both body and soul.

If we go to our gut and listen to it, we know we can trust it. That feeling we cannot quite shake when we are around someone has real meaning. The spirit within us is greater than the spirit of the world.

Just because we may not be able to respond very well to another, or give clear voice to what is inside us, does not necessarily mean that the other person is okay or right.

A proper Christian response to others incorporates head, heart, and gut. The interaction and alignment of all our faculties is needed. If we draw upon our entire selves, both body and soul, we will overcome the spirit of the antichrist through loving words and actions toward those who need it most. The Antichrist wants us to get caught up in putting all our focus fighting theological battles and debating philosophical ideas – while our neighbor next door is dying of cancer; our co-worker is experiencing covert racism; and, our friend is stuck in poverty.

Since Jesus is fully human, that fact alone ought to impel us toward meeting the needs of the body – without wondering if it is the spiritual thing to do, or not. You already know this to be true. So, don’t let some esoteric preacher or teacher tell you otherwise.

God Almighty, the creator and preserver of all humanity, I humbly ask: Please make your ways known to everyone and your saving health to all nations. I also pray for the Church everywhere: That it may be guided and governed by your good spirit; that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. I lift to your fatherly goodness all those who are afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or spirit. Comfort them and meet their every need, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a good outcome of all their afflictions. This I ask for the sake Jesus Christ your Son, my Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reign forever. Amen.

Revelation 11:15-19 – It Will Not Always Be This Way

The World
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” –Abraham Kuyper

At the sound of the seventh trumpet, loud voices were heard in heaven. They said,

“Now the kingdom
of this world
belongs to our Lord
and to his Chosen One!
And he will rule
forever and ever!”

Then the twenty-four elders, who were seated on thrones in God’s presence, knelt down and worshiped him.  They said,

“Lord God All-Powerful,
you are and you were,
and we thank you.
You used your great power
and started ruling.
When the nations got angry,
you became angry too!
Now the time has come
for the dead
to be judged.
It is time for you to reward
your servants the prophets
and all of your people
who honor your name,
no matter who they are.
It is time to destroy everyone
who has destroyed
the earth.”

The door to God’s temple in heaven was then opened, and the sacred chest could be seen inside the temple. I saw lightning and heard roars of thunder. The earth trembled and huge hailstones fell to the ground. (CEV)

The book of the Revelation was a vision given to the Apostle John late in his life.  At the turn of the first century, Christ’s Church was facing a great deal of difficulty and hardship.  Christians were in the minority; looked at with suspect; misunderstood; often persecuted because of false information.  In short, all the kinds of things that Jewish people currently face and have faced for millennia were true of the early believers in Jesus.

Therefore, the purpose of the vision to John was not to give slick preachers a reason to craft elaborate prophecy charts about what’s going to happen in the future.  Instead, God was concerned for the welfare of his people.  The vision was meant to bring  encouragement that this present hard situation will not always be this way.  The danger and adversity will not last forever.  There is a day coming when God’s judgment and benevolent rule will reign in its fullness.  In other words, our prayers will be answered that have been offered for centuries: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

God did not want his beloved children to succumb to discouragement and lose heart.  So, the vision from John assured them that all will be made right.  Jesus is Lord, and his good rule will have the day.  Yes, we currently live in a world profoundly touched by sin and death.  And because of that we feel pain and must endure the hardships of things like COVID-19 and economic woes. It is possible to observe it all and experience its effects and fall into despair, and, so, give-in to unhealthy ways of coping with the circumstances around us.

We graciously have been given a glimpse into how all of history will shake-out in the end.  That peek into what’s coming ahead is meant to bring us needed encouragement, steadfast hope, and patient endurance.  There is coming a day when our own personal and local expressions of grief and lament will give way to praise and gratitude to God.  And that incredible praise will explode with all believers, past and present, along with all creation, proclaiming together: “Lord God All-Powerful, you are and you were, and we thank you.  Now the kingdom of this world belongs to our Lord and to his Chosen One!  And he will rule forever and ever!”  Amen, and amen.

Click Hope in God to gain some encouragement from singer and songwriter Ken Medema.

John 12:1-11 – Broken and Poured Out

mary anointing jesus feet

“Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume.  Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), complained, ‘This perfume was worth a year’s wages!  Why wasn’t it sold, and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would take what was in it.)

Then Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. This perfume was to be used in preparation for my burial, and this is how she has used it. You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.’”

When I was a kid there was a show on TV called “Quincy.”  Quincy was a coroner.  Every episode was him performing an autopsy on someone who appeared to have a rather normal death.  But Quincy always found something suspicious and spent his time prying into people’s lives to confirm his investigation.  His boss and the police chief would chide and warn him saying, “Leave it alone, Quincy.”  Quincy’s typical response was: “But I can’t leave it alone.  There’s more here than what meets the eye!”

Indeed, the Apostle John was the Quincy of his ancient generation.  In his gospel there is always more going on than what meets the eye.  There are double-meanings, sometimes even triple-meanings to the events unfolding.  There are deeply symbolic encounters, as well as the physical tangible events serving as almost metaphors pointing to the spiritual.

quincy

Mary, a woman with a sordid background, had her life transformed through meeting Jesus.  Now, near the end of Christ’s life as he was about to enter Jerusalem and be arrested, tried, tortured and killed, Mary senses what is happening and is aware of what’s happening when others are not.  Her own brokenness cracked open to her the true reality of life.

The surface event itself is a touching and tender moment in history.  This woman, whom everyone knows as a damaged person, takes a high-end perfume and breaks the entire thing open.  She proceeds to anoint Christ’s feet with it.  You can imagine the aroma which would fill the house with an entire amount of expensive perfume out for all to smell.  Giving what she had to Jesus, Mary demonstrates the path of true discipleship.

But there’s more here than what meets the eye.  Let’s point out some observations about John’s expert autopsy:

  • The broken jar of perfume shows us the brokenness of Mary and our need to be broken (Matthew 5:3-4)
  • Mary uses an extraordinary amount of perfume, picturing her overflowing love for Jesus (John 20:1-18)
  • Mary applies the perfume to Jesus with her hair; hair is richly and culturally symbolic for submission and respect (1 Corinthians 11:14)
  • The perfume directs us to the death of Jesus (John 19:38-42)
  • The perfume highlights for us the aroma of Christ to the world (2 Corinthians 2:15-17)
  • There is more to Judas than his words about perfume; he is not actually concerned for the poor (Matthew 26:15)
  • Judas and Mary serve as spiritual contrasts: Mary opens herself to the sweet aroma of Christ; Judas just plain stinks
  • The perfume presents a powerful picture of the upcoming death of Christ, for those with eyes to see; he was broken and poured out for our salvation (Luke 23:26-27:12)

Christianity was never meant to be a surface religion which only runs skin deep.  The follower of Christ is meant to be profoundly transformed within, inside and out, so that there is genuine healing, spiritual health, and authentic concern for the poor and needy.  Keeping up appearances is what the Judas’s of this world do.  But the Mary’s among us dramatically point us to Jesus with their tears, their humility, their openness, and their love.

In this contemporary environment of fragmented human ecology, our first step toward wholeness and integrity begins with a posture of giving everything we have – body, soul, and spirit – to the Lord Jesus.  Methinks Quincy was on to something.

Loving Lord Jesus, my savior and my friend, you have gone before us and pioneered deliverance from an empty way of life and into a life of grace and gratitude.  May I and all your followers, emulate the path of Mary and realize the true freedom which comes from emptying oneself out for you.  Amen.

1 John 4:1-6

            The Apostle John gave some spiritually sage advice to a group of his disciples who were being influenced by false believers:  “Dear friends, don’t believe everyone who claims to have the Spirit of God.  Test them all to find out if they really do come from God.”  Lots of people make claims, but the real muster of a Christian is in embracing an embodied spirituality that truly meets the holistic needs of others.
 
            For John, there was no room for the Platonic Greek dualism of body and spirit.  Jesus was a real man with a very real body.  To deny this was to deny the faith.  Ethereal musings about the insignificance of the body were flatly rejected by John.  The apostle was concerned that the supreme Christian ethic of love be practiced through attention to both body and soul.  This means words are not enough; actual demonstrations of love are needed in order to communicate Christ to others.
 
            I’ll be the first guy to insist on some deep theological reflection on the great spiritual, cultural, and social issues of our day.  But if it does not lead to the end of some very real tangible acts of love based on that reflection, then we have not yet been called God’s friend.  Correct doctrine will always lead to loving actions of faith.  We are to glorify God with both speech and service, and never just one without the other.
 

 

            Loving God, since you cared for us by sending your Son, the Lord Jesus, to this earth as a real human being, so let my very real body and soul glorify you with words and ways of love through the power of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.