After finishing up last week, realizing we are not abandoned. That life can be different, we journey in to chapter 3 of First John. John continues his explanation of how we have a new life and all eternity with a new family, God’s family. The chapter opens with a continuation of what John started in 1 John 2:28, so we will rewind to there to begin this week as well.

Children of God

28And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 2:28-3:3 ESV

Last week we discussed the cost of the decisions we make. We could understand that our decisions are based on consequences and that obedience is based on a precept that we want to do what we do, either for gain or avoidance.

In this section John reiterates the concept that we will have to make a decision “some day”. In verse 28 we need to notice that it does not say “if” he, being Jesus, returns, but when.  So there is no guessing or uncertainty of is he returning, the only mystery is the timing.  Now none of us like being caught off-guard. When we are are, we are either quick to defend or we are quick to retreat.

One thing we have learned in the last month is that there is a powerful emotion given to us by God, known as shame. Shame can be used in a good way (healthy shame) to awaken us and convict us to awaken and become wise. Then there is the other side of the coin, unhealthy shame (toxic shame) that is detrimental and damaging with no healthy benefits.

When we anticipate something, we have the foresight of what is to come. We can be excited about a new vehicle, or a new job, or a new home, and we have hopeful anticipation of what is to come.

Of course, there is the other side of the coin on anticipation as well, and that is when we were not looking forward to a situation. We can be leery, reserved and anxious about an upcoming doctor’s visit, a financial deadline, a undesired change in our future.

It is certain each of us have experienced both of these situations in life. Many times we have happy memories of the good anticipations and each us have also lived through those tough situations. One thing is certain, our hearts desire the good over the bad every time.

Can you share some experiences of good and bad anticipation, and how you felt and how it manifested in your character? (strong, survivor, victim, shy, amiable)

Abiding Focus

We definitely are drawn toward the positive anticipations, and one that we will always have is our final fate of meeting Jesus face-to-face.  We can’t avoid it, but we can equip and prepare ourselves. John opens this section with directive on how to be in a good position for the future…

abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. – 1 John 2:28 ESV

Abide in him. Well that is clear and straight forward, but not always simple and easy.

What does the term abide most likely mean in this context? What has been your learnings of the word “abide”?

There are a few different meanings of what the English translation uses for the word abide, and we can relate to them in a variety of ways.  There are usually two camps, obey and stay.  We actually see in some different translations how the original Greek word “meno” gets intreated in this section. In the NIV it is stated as “continue in him”; in the NLT it is stated as “remain in fellowship with Christ”.

The key focus here is not to renounce or denote the importance of obeying Jesus, but the importance of remaining in fellowship and closeness with Christ.  We need to be aware and confidence in our relationship and position with Jesus.

Share the different emotions you have when you make a mistake with a friend and when you make a mistake with someone that is not close to you. What is the difference in the results of making a mistake? Or what is the motivation and outcome when you make such a mistake?

We know we are not perfect, or at least should. Which means we have gotten out of the denial that we will need to face the truth and make mistakes but not intentionally, but through life with intention of maturing. There is that “healthy shame” or embarrassment that propels us to learn and change. Our identity and character change.  As Christians, if we are born again, we anticipate the transformation from who we are into the likeness of Jesus. That should be joyful, but it is also humbling.

In this opening line, John is saying no matter what, stay close to Jesus, see Him, follow Him.  A quick visual of such a relationship is a canine and his handler, is competition.  The dog is always aware of where it’s handler is, what they are doing and what they are going to do next.  The canine is looking with anticipation, in a desire to follow. Not fearful and dread, but joy and excitement.
There are two obvious differences that we see in the demeanor of the dogs and can relate to in our own lives. There is the attentiveness to the handler seen with the german shepherd that shows excitement, anticipation and fellowship with the handler.
The other is more independent, self-seeking. There is a lack of obedience, a lack of reality of consequences. Running off to do what seems right.

What thoughts and ideas of these two pictures come to your mind when we focus on the work “abide” now? Can you relate to times when you were in both situations?

We know through our own experiences and being around church any bit of time, that we have seen self-declaring Christians abiding and not abiding in Christ. In chapter 3 verse 1, John can expound on these pictures for us:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. – 1 John 3:1 ESV

Just like in our life, many people don’t understand why we look to our handler with adoration and expectancy. The world sees the two dogs and says heck, I want to be the second one and play and run; “catch me if you can!”. While so many enjoy the intimacy and love of Jesus with him in full focus.

Storms and Opportunities

Have you ever noticed that your biggest growth opportunities are within trials? Have you given much thought to your experiences of being surprised by God? Many times it is not in the calm and pleasant places, but more in the the storms of life.

24Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
27But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” 28Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
31Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
32When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.
– Matthew 14:24-32 NLT

What are some key points that you can pick up on as we read through this famous story now?

If you asked most people what is the most dramatic, personal, experience captured in the bible, it would most likely be the opportunity that Peter had to experience the miracle of walking on water. There are some interesting points that we can acknowledge and take hold of:

  • In the midst of the storm, Peter looked and focused on Jesus, the Handler.
  • In the middle of doubt and fear, Peter did not rely on his own abilities, but Peter called out and seeked guidance from the Lord. (v. 28)
  • Jesus did not calm the storm and make everything calm and smooth to encourage Peter to step out of the boat.
  • In the middle of chaos, fear and danger, Peter focused on Jesus and experienced a miracle like no other (v. 29)
  • When Peter focused on the chaos and the turmoil and took his focus off of Jesus, things went awry.

The question is not do you experience storms in your life. It is not even do you know that you need to look to Jesus in the storms, but “Do you expect God’s miracles to happen in the middle of storms?” Or do you just “wish the storm would go away?” There was more than Peter in that boat, and many of them had an opportunity to engage and witness, but merely sat at a distance and watched. Do you cry out to God in the storms “show me your glory!”? Or do you close your eyes and just withdrawal. Some of your greatest victories, accomplishments and growth events happened in storms. Do not hesitate getting in the boat, because if you don’t, you will not have the opportunity to get out of the boat.

Can you share any experiences where you had some difficult times and opposition, but God showed up and showed out?

Life Portrayed

Another concept of the dog and it’s handler is not to say that God does not want us to be jubilant and enjoy life. There are times when that is what it appears, but it is our relationship and desire that John is hitting on here.  To have the inner desire and passion to belong, to be included. To know that someone else has our best intention in mind. Many of us did not have that when we were younger and have had to create safeguards and boundaries to keep life safe and survive.

Can people tell by the way you behave and act that you abide in Christ? How or why not?

In verses 4-10, John brings home the harvest of this section. He points out that people will sin, but if Jesus can’t stand sin, does not approve of sin, and if a person continues to willfully sin. Meaning, sees sin, knows sin, has a choice and elects to sin out of their own judgement, they are not abiding in Jesus.

4Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. – 1 John 3:4-10 ESV

Do you respond better when someone tells you what to do? Or what not to do?

John surrounds this topic from all angles.  In 1 John 3:3 and 1 John 3:7, he describes the people that do right, and then in 1 John 3:4  and 1 John 3:8 spotlight the one doing wrong. Either way we read it or look at it. there is no squirming around with what John was communicating.  If a person knowingly sins, goes against the will of God, they are against Him.  Literally when we consciously do what we know is against God’s will, we declare that we either know better than God, or that we care more about ourselves than God does.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. – 1 John 3:8 ESV

God’s answer to sin was a once and for all event of sending Jesus to die for the sin. This is the clarification that there is an incompatibility with sin and sonship. You can’t have both. Your either in the family or not.  The very object of Christ’s manifestation in the flesh was to take away (by one act, and entirely) all sins, as the scapegoat did typically.

Jesus uses a great reference to abiding in him, in John chapter 15.

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:1-11 ESV

Just because we may abide in Him does not mean that things will be smooth sailing. The main reason for that is because we are not sanctified, or perfected. We still need some guidance, wisdom and maturity, until we see Him face-to-face. Jesus clearly tells us “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes“.

Just as we have learned that it can be painful to be sharpened, so can it be when we are fruitful.

What would be the whole purpose to be fruitful if we are going to be pruned?

The most bountiful crops are the ones produced by the well maintained gardener. The ones that have been pruned, nurtured and cared for.  The wild berry bush may produce a good fruit here and there from time to time, but never as bountiful as that of a maintained garden or orchard.

As we go out this week, think about your overall walk in life. Are you seeking your handler? Are you engaged with Him in all aspects of your life. Are you living a life that is anticipating God’s involvement, in the calm and the storms? Are you willing to engage and experience life to the full, even when life is not smooth and calm? Live today like it was worth Jesus dying for.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Holy Bible: New Living Translation. (2013). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.