Start

I start loving because Jesus laid down his life for me

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Read: 1 John 3:10-18

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (1 John 3:11)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)

Reflect:

Jesus said to “love your neighbour” was the second most important command of God, superseded only by the command to love God. At the Last Supper, which Christians remember and celebrate tomorrow (on Maundy Thursday), Jesus told his disciples he was giving them a new command: “Love one another.” John repeats Jesus’ commands here.

But what does it mean to love? According to Jesus’ perfect example, to love means to “lay down our lives” for our brothers and sisters, our fellow believers. We must share with other Christians in need. We must love actively, truthfully. I must share generously. I must love actively, truthfully, compassionately, sacrificially.

I was telling someone today about my husband’s flight over Antarctica, which he did a year ago with a dear neighbour and friend, without me. The other person said their spouse would never let them do such a thing because they’d be too jealous. Something was even mentioned about scratching eyes out, I think. But love is not envious, nor self-seeking. I was happy to release Jeff to his exciting flight because I love him and I want him to experience joy.

In the same way, my husband loves me and is generous rather than jealous with me. In the last few weeks, Jeff has said I can fly overseas in June for two and a half weeks for the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. Jeff has committed to parenting our four children without me for the weeks I’ll be gone, and he’s freed up the money from our income so I could buy flights to get there. He’s suggested I visit a friend and bring her to the conference with me, and committed funds for her to join me so I won’t be alone. He’s even encouraged me to do some exciting touristy things while I’m there and helped me find the best way of doing them in keeping with my personal limitations. This is abundantly generous love. This is sacrificial love, and it springs from what Christ has done for both of us, not just from our mutual married love.

Love is generous. Love gives unreservedly. Love is happy to see the beloved rejoicing. Love shares whatever it has. May I love like this.

Crux:

I start loving because Jesus laid down his life for me.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are love and you have shown me true love in the generous, humble actions of your Son.

Thank you for your love, for the love of your Son, and for the love of my husband in imitation of the Son.

Please make me like Jesus. Let me learn from him how to love rightly. Make me willing to lay down my life for the good of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Help me to be willing to give my time, my money, my attention, my skills, even my future for those who need them. Please help me to give up my aspirations that are selfish, my habits that get in the way of relationships, my hobbies that take up what you want me to give away. Make me generous with all you have given me.

May I be especially willing to give away knowledge of the gospel!

Amen.

Stop

I stop sinning because Jesus took away my sin

Read: 1 John 2:29-3:10

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:5-6)

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. (1 John 3:9)

Reflect:

John is blunt. Blunt, plain and clear. True Christians stop sinning.

We do not continue to sin. We do not keep on in our old sinful ways. Sin stops when a person is “born of God”. Sin stops when a person is called a child of God.

I am filled with questions.

If Christians stop sinning, why might we need a mediator and advocate in Christ (2:1)?

If I don’t think I’ve stopped sinning completely, does this mean I’m not really God’s child (3:9)?

If so, why did John assure me that “this is what we are!” (3:1)?

What does it mean to stop sinning, if “sin is lawlessness” (3:4)?

Is stopping sinning my action, my work, or is it a grace-gift of the Trinity at work in me and active for me – the Father’s love that calls me his child (3:1), Jesus removing my sin (3:5), the Spirit’s seed remaining in me (3:9)?

And how does this all fit together with Paul’s instruction to the Colossians (Colossians 3:5-10) which tells me to “put to death” that which belongs to my “earthly nature” and “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator”?

Oi!

Crux:

I stop sinning because Jesus took away my sin.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I confess that I am confused. I’m confused about who I am and what I do. But what I do see clearly in these verses is You: who you are and what you do.

You are the Father. You lavish your love upon me. You call me your child. I praise you!

You are Jesus Christ. You have taken away my sins. In you there is no sin. You appeared and the devil’s work (sin) was destroyed and obliterated. I worship you.

You are the Spirit. You anointed me. You seeded me with yourself so I may grow and bear spiritual fruit. You remain in me. I honour you.

LORD God Almighty, you are Father, Son and Spirit; you are Trinity.

Help me, please. Make your word, which you spoke to me through John’s epistle today, come true in me and come alive in my life. Stop my sin, LORD, I pray.

Amen.

Remain

I remain in Christ because I remember the Christian gospel

Read: 1 John 2:24-28

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us: eternal life. (1 John 2:24-25)

Reflect:

John gives a direct command here to his readers. He tells me I must ensure that what I “have heard from the beginning” stays in me. I am responsible.

What is this message that reached my ears? It is the gospel, the good news.

In words of one syllable, it is this: Christ died to save me from my sins so that I may be right with God.

The Big Words version: The gospel of salvation told me that the forgiveness of my sins (justification) and imparting of Christ’s righteousness (imputation) was made possible by God’s free gift (grace) to me, through my faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ in my place (substitution), which turned away God’s wrath (propitiation).

So how do I ensure that this message “remains in me”?

I study and learn more about this gospel message (so I understand all those Big Words that End in SHUN). I read the Bible closely and see Christ’s death on my behalf portrayed throughout its pages. I partake in Holy Communion. I celebrate Easter, gathering with my local church body. I talk about the gospel with my husband, my children, my fellow believers, my co-workers, my friends. Through prayer, I talk about the gospel with my God.

I take responsibility for loving God with all my mind and soul as well as with all my heart and strength.

Blessedly, all this learning, remembering, celebrating, meditating and talking has a flow-on effect, according to John: it ensures that I stay in Christ and in the Father. Christ promised me eternal life, and I have it now as I remain in him.

Crux:

I remain in Christ because I remember the Christian gospel.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

May your name be praised in all the world.

You saw my horrible sin and were justly angry at me. Yet you expended your wrath not on me but on the body of your Son, Jesus Christ, as he hung crucified, bearing my sin and shame in his body.

You are just – terribly, fearfully just.
You are merciful – wonderfully, generously merciful.

You are Sovereign, Saviour and Spirit, Three in One, the Holy One.

I acknowledge you. May I always remain in you, and in so-doing enjoy eternal life.

Thank you for this eternal life which you have birthed in me through the hearing of the gospel and faith in your Son. Keep me in your Son always, eternally alive because I am eternally in him who grants me life.

May I continue to live in Christ, so I may be confident and unashamed – confident in Christ’s sacrifice and unashamed with Christ’s righteousness – before Jesus when he comes.

Amen.

Comparison

Nothing the world offers compares to the glory of the LORD

Read: 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Reflect:

John draws a contrast here between the world and God. This is a contrast that might seem absurd to many people today, who hold the common materialist worldview. They think that the world is all there is: scientifically observable and measurable matter.

But John takes for granted there is something beyond the world, above the world; something inherently other. This something is really a Someone: God himself.

Nothing the world offers to us or demands from us is worth anything in comparison to God.

The world passes away. Our toys and technologies; our engineering marvels and scientific wonders; our hopes, dreams and goals; our endeavours and efforts – all pass away, like mist in the pure heat of the sun’s dawning rays. Everything I (in my worldly, fleshy nature) love and cherish, want and desire – all these will fade from sight when seen in the light of the surpassing glory of the LORD.

Crux:

Nothing the world offers holds a candle to the blazing, brilliant glory of the LORD.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are wondrous and marvellous, magnificent and awesome. The light of your glory is blazing, brilliant, blinding… yet so many times I cannot see your glory because my attention is distracted, caught by the world. My love for you is squeezed out; there is no room for it because I am led astray by love for the world.

I confess that today I enjoyed the softness of clean sheets on our bed, while failing to remember your provision of true sabbath rest for me through Jesus Christ.

I confess that today I appreciated the simple satisfaction of hanging washing on our outdoor clothesline, but didn’t focus the eyes of my heart on your cleansing me from my sin through Jesus Christ.

I confess today I delighted in watching my hen-pecked chicken recover in her new separate coop, yet I did not remember that your word says you care for your people as a hen shelters her chicks under her wings, and you have shown your care by giving up your Son for my sake.

I confess today I found pleasure in watching a movie with my younger children and was encouraged by its Christian moral message on the importance of earthly fathers without reflecting on the joy I find in my relationship with you, my heavenly Father.

I confess today I have been too caught up in this world to rejoice in your deeper, truer, more fulfilling glory. My eyes have been on my world, my life, and not on you and your Son.

Please forgive me and help me to pay attention to you tomorrow.

Amen.

Child

I live forgiven as a dear child of the Father

Read: 1 John 2:12-14

I am writing to you dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (1 John 2:12)

Reflect:

Growing up in a feminist culture, I am tempted to grumble at the lack of female nouns in these three verses. But women like me are addressed here, under the descriptor “children”. Should I take offence at such diminution? Never!

John clearly holds his “children” dear and close to his heart. So far in his letter, John has referred to his readers as “my dear children” (2:1) and “my friends” (2:7).  I too am John’s dear child because he proclaimed the gospel to me through his writings: in his Gospel, in his letters and in Revelation. I am John’s dear spiritual child, his offspring of faith. This is certainly nothing of which to be ashamed or dismayed.

Too, I am more than John’s faith-child, I am a child of God. I am not just John’s dear child, I am God’s dear child. Jesus has revealed the Father to me (John 10:38, 14:9) so that I might know God the Father (2:14) as his own adopted child (Galatians 4:4-5). His Spirit has taught me to call him “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6-7).

And then, what John says of me, God’s dear child, is immensely precious: My sins have been forgiven on account of the name of Jesus Christ. O what joy!

The knowledge of my guilt has been building from reading the last one-and-a-half chapters. Do I really walk in the light (1:7)? Do I truly live as Jesus did (2:6)? This guilt is washed away by the truth that my sins have been forgiven in Jesus’ name.

No, I do not always walk in the light of God. I do not constantly live as Jesus did. That is why I need Jesus.

But, Jesus has been faithful and he has ensured the forgiveness of my sins. He has done this through his identity (“name”) as “Word of Life” (1:1), granting me “eternal life” (1:2). Through Jesus, the Word of Life, I have been made acceptable to enter into the presence of my heavenly Father. Hooray!

Crux:

I live forgiven as a dear child of the Father through Jesus, the Word of Life.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty, Dear Abba Father,

Hallowed be your name!

May your name be great and sacred in all the earth. May your name be revered and worshiped by all people. May we no longer blaspheme, but know and rejoice in your name.

Thank you for your grace to me extended through Jesus, the Word of Life. As Peter said, “To whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” I have none other but you. You forgave my sin and in that moment granted me eternal life. So though my flesh might die, my soul shall live as a new creation forever with you as your child.

I praise your name, O Word of Life, Jesus Christ.

Please grant me opportunities today to share the good news that in your name is forgiveness; that you love us as dear children; that in knowing Jesus we may know you, God my Father.

Amen.

Live

I live Christ in my everyday ordinary by loving other Christians

Read: 1 John 2:3-11

But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:5-6)

Reflect:

To live in Christ is to live as Jesus did. This is a huge undertaking: to obey Jesus’ word and to love God completely (2:5); and to love fellow believers (2:10). So what does it look like, in my everyday ordinary, to ‘live Christ,’ as I put it in my blog tagline?

It means to obey Jesus’ word: In 1 John 1:5 I read “the message” John and the other apostles “heard form him” and have “declare[d] to you”; this message is that “God is light.” To obey Jesus’ words (in this context) thus means to “live in the light” (2:10) because “the true light is already shining” (2:8).

To live in the light is to “love [my] brother and sister” (2:10): not specifically my biological brothers and sister-in-law, but to love my fellow Christians, my local church brethren.

I live Christ in my everyday ordinary Christian life by loving other Christians; loving them “as Jesus did” (2:6). I must love others joyfully and willingly, continuously and sacrificially, according to their need and not necessarily according to their wishes.

Crux:

I live Christ in my everyday ordinary by loving other Christians.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are light and truth. In the person and work of your Son Jesus Christ, the true light is shining forth, a brilliant blaze of glory.

May you be forever praised, forever loved, forever obeyed. May I praise you always, love you always, obey you always.

Please help me to live in Christ by living as Jesus Christ lived. Please help me to love my fellow Christians in acts of everyday ordinary sacrifice.

Thank you for helping me, in response to yesterday’s prayer, to be up and receiving and reflecting upon and responding to your word in the quiet peace of the early morning today. May I remember throughout this day your command to love my neighbour as I love myself.

Please help me to proactively love my son who is going through an unsettled time at the moment and my friend who has asked for my assistance with transport. Please keep me from being selfish with my time and talents, my money and means today LORD.

Amen.

All

I am forgiven and cleansed because Jesus atoned for all my sins

Read: 1 John 1:8-2:2

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

Reflect:

1 John 1:9 is the verse that converted me to Christian faith. I saw clearly for the first time (though this was certainly not the first time it had been shown to me) that Jesus Christ had done all that was required by God for the forgiveness of my sin.

I saw that I did not have to be perfectly righteous on my own; Jesus Christ was able to do all that was necessary to cleanse and purify me.

This verse showed me the glory of the gospel and – thanks be to God – I grasped this glorious gospel firmly and clung thereafter to Christ.

Now, as I go on in my everyday ordinary Christian life, I struggle with the Spirit’s help to keep from sin. But I do so in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is my heavenly lawyer; pleading my case, interceding and advocating on my behalf though his own perfect righteousness. He has atoned for all my sins.

Crux:

I am forgiven and cleansed because Jesus atoned for all my sins.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Jesus Christ, you are the Righteous One:
perfect keeper of God’s law;
perfect fulfilment of God’s promises;
perfect sacrifice for my sins;
perfect advocate for my forgiveness.
Jesus Christ, you are faithful and just.

I confess I am a sinner. I am lazy and again today I did not get up early to converse with you, but stayed in bed and did not think upon your word until the opposite end of the day.

I am sorry. Thank you for forgiving me.

Please purify me from my unrighteousness, whereby I do not seek fellowship with you but would prefer “a little sleep, a little slumber” even though this means I spend my day in spiritual poverty. Please cleanse me of my lazy selfishness that is so short-sighted.

Please make me eager again to meet with you and meditate on your word.

Amen.