How the Mighty Have Fallen

II Samuel 11:1-15

King David was a mighty conquering hero. As a shepherd, he killed a bear and a lion to protect the sheep. After he was anointed by Samuel with the Holy Spirit to be the next king, he killed the Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath. David was the leader of Israel’s army, popular with the people, the king’s court. After he became king in I Chronicles 18, it says David defeated the Philistines, the Moabites, the Syrians, the Edomites, the Amorites, and the Amalekites. The spoils of those victories filled Israel’s treasuries with gold, silver, and bronze. He was handsome, powerful, wealthy, loved by the people, famous. King David was on top of the world, and the scripture says the Lord gave David victory.

Yet this story also tells us how the mighty have fallen. In the spring of the year when kings go off to war, David has lost his initiative. He’s stepping away from his responsibility. He stays in Jerusalem. He is restless and bored. In the middle of the night as he is out on his rooftop pacing, and he sees a woman bathing, a beautiful woman.

To live is to be tempted. Martin Luther said, “You can’t stop birds from flying overhead, but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair.”

David inquires of this woman and the servant reports back. She is married to Uriah, the Hittite. David blows past that barrier as if it hadn’t been said to him. He sends servants, who took her to the King. That same word “took” is a word used in Hebrew, meaning to pluck a grape from a cluster or take the life of a soldier on the battlefield. David took Bathsheba and used his power wrongly to justify his momentary lust.

Later she sends word to David that she is pregnant. David is in a dilemma. So he sends word to Joab, the commander of the army to send Uriah home on furlough. He rationalizes that the sin he committed will be covered because Uriah will enjoy the company of his wife, and no one will be the wiser. Except Uriah carries himself with great integrity in contrast to David’s weakness, immorality, coverup, and lies. The king’s lazy shirking of duties gives birth to lust, his power is misused, adultery happens, and to cover up the misdeed – murder. True to the prophet’s word, insurrection never leaves David’s house (II Samuel 12:10). How the mighty have fallen!

I think it is important for us to realize that each time we are tempted in life, a vulnerability underneath us makes us more susceptible to the temptation. One example would be pride. We become intoxicated with people’s praise and begin to think we’re very important. We can become drunk with power.

Or maybe it’s spiritual ambivalence and a lack of gratitude. We forget that the Lord is He who has given us our blessings.

It might be pure lust, being addicted to pleasure. Lust is a beast that is never satisfied, and we can end up singing rocker Mick Jagger’s song, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

Maybe we’re under stress. Perhaps we are an insecure person easily manipulated. Maybe we’ve been hurt a great deal in the past and the chaos of our emotions is reacting in a way that does wrong. Perhaps we’re disillusioned or depressed. Maybe we struggle with low self-esteem. Maybe we are so lonely that we’re willing to violate our own faith in God in order to be with someone. Always we’re vulnerable if we are unaware or underestimate our enemy Satan, the great tempter.

Sin never happens in a vacuum. It’s not just conceptual. People are hurt. Lives are changed forever when we force ourselves on others in selfish deeds and attitudes in our sinfulness. Think of this story and remember that Satan lies to us. He tells us, No one will get hurt, or No one will know. He’s good at lies.

David fails his army. He fails to be the leader that would inspire them, guide them, and do battle at their side. David, in his sin, takes a married woman and violates her. He violates the holiness and sanctity of the marriage covenant, and she, a married woman, ends up being pregnant by another man. David steals the wife of Uriah, then innocent Uriah is murdered in order that the king’s reputation not be marred. David misuses the power of the army on purpose to kill Uriah, and the woman Bathsheba is left with tremendous grief and loss. The chaos in David’s house never leaves. Scripture talks about lust giving birth to sin, and then sin giving birth to death. We don’t sin in a vacuum.

By the way, did you know that Uriah’s name means “Yahweh is my light”? So King David, in the succession as a forefather of Jesus himself, is weak, immoral, and tries to cover his sin. But Uriah, whose name means Yahweh is my light, carries himself with loyalty to God and king and army and cause. He’s a noble man.

How do we fight temptation when it comes? We all have a shadow side, and Satan knows how to use it to hammer away at us.

The first weapon for resisting temptation is the Word of God, the Bible. Psalm 119 it says, “Thy word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”

The second weapon for resisting temptation is prayer. Be in tune with the Holy Spirit, walk in conscious awareness of the Lord through prayer, confess our weakness in prayer. Ask God’s Spirit to purge that weakness out of your heart and put to death its sinful tendency within us. Pray for Jesus to be raised up in us. “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4).

A third weapon for resisting temptation is Christian fellowship. Find a Christian friend with whom you can talk freely about your vulnerabilities, your faithfulness, and your faith journey. Name the struggle, invite them to hold you accountable. Call on them when you need to be strong. Christian fellowship.

Fourth: Be vigilant. Remember when Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den? He prayed for God to close their mouths, but do you think he slept that night? I think he probably stayed awake and watched those lions. He was vigilant; he was alert. In I Peter it says Satan comes at us like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Be vigilant.

Next, battle the temptation. Don’t give in; don’t give up. Keep fighting! Even if you get knocked down, get up and keep fighting! Someone in a past church used to say, “Any dead fish can float downstream.” Swim with vigor. Battle temptation. Don’t give in.

Also, run from the temptation. Another friend has said, “If you sit in the barbershop long enough, eventually you’re going to get your hair cut.” RUN from temptation. It says in I Timothy, “Flee temptation; flee immorality.”

When Joseph in the Old Testament was serving Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife tempted him every day to be with her. But Joseph said no. One day she dismissed all the servants, grabbed his shirt, and begged him to lay with her. Joseph wriggled out of his shirt and ran from Potiphar’s house. He ran from the temptation.

Don’t stay in proximity to that which holds you as a vulnerable temptation. Get out of there. Run! Sometimes I tell Satan, “In the name of Jesus, leave me alone! My heart belongs to Jesus Christ.” Resist temptation.

It’s really important for us now to know that, though David failed miserably and the consequences were very poignant, yet God did not give up on David, and God will never give up on you. The moment of failure is a key moment because our enemy attacks us hard to convince us that we have crossed a point of no return. He wants to keep us in an attitude of defeat. But God never gives up on us. He finds us at the point of our failure and offers us the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. He embraces us again in love.

I come back to where David conquered Goliath and took his head to the outskirts of Jerusalem. Do you remember that the place where Jesus was crucified was called Golgotha? Some biblical scholars believe it is too coincidental that Goliath of Gath – Gol of Gath – sounds in alliteration so close to Gol of Gath – Gol-gath-a. They believe that the place of the skull, the place where Jesus was crucified, the place where Jesus was lifted up in paradoxical victory, is the very place where David put the head of the giant Goliath when he gained tremendous victory. So Jesus paradoxically gains victory for us. Our sin crucified Him on the cross, but the cross is the place where victory flows to us in the blood of Jesus, our Savior. In the name of Jesus, your sins are forgiven.

Today He again invites you to come. Do not let temptation have its way. If you fall, do not stay defeated and in the clutches of the enemy who wants to continue pulling you further and further down. Instead, bring your sins to Jesus. Bathe with the confidence of faith that Jesus will forgive you just as He has promised.

Maybe you know someone who had a great fall like David. Maybe in your own life journey, you’ve had a David-immoral moment. Maybe you are presently still living in a pattern of immorality and defeat. Today is a day of grace. Today is a day for forgiveness. The Word of God promises if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I praise God that my relationship with Him is not based on my perfection. My salvation is based on the free grace of Jesus Christ crucified for you and me. Amen.

Pastor Lee Laaveg
Christian Crusaders

A Deeper Cleansing Is Available

I John 1:8 – 2:2

I have a confession to make. I am a screwup. It pains me to admit this to myself and to you, but it happens to be true. Let me explain.

I try to live the Christian life – to obey, to be faithful, to have the mind of Christ, to love as Christ has loved me, to walk in the light and goodness as God is in the light. But, I have a lousy batting average. I strike out a lot. I tend to miss the mark. I do the things I don’t want to do, and I don’t do things I want to do. For instance, I want to be more gracious in life, but I find myself falling prey to being more judgmental of others, being harder on them than I might be on myself. I want to be more humble as God would have me be, but ego and pride rear their ugly heads way too often as I play comparison games. I can get so careless with my words, they will wound instead of heal. When it comes to loving, I’m so inactive at truly loving someone as Christ has loved me. I find I avoid difficult people sometimes. It’s hard to love people you don’t like. And when I get home (this is the worst place), I’m inattentive to my wife, and I don’t listen very well.

I’m downright rebellious when it comes right down to it. I rebel against God’s commands. I know I shouldn’t watch this or read that, or say that or do that. I know it’s wrong, but I’m enjoying it! There is an iniquity within me that Scripture talks about. I’m twisted up inside, contorted. I just can’t get things right! Like a piece of warped lumber.

“All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Scripture tells us. We’re wired that way. We tend to be selfish and turned inward wanting to be our own gods with our world revolving around us. We’re all in that place, Scripture says.

A few years ago, John Ortburg wrote a book called, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” In it he tells a story illustrating this.

Some years ago, we traded in my old Volkswagen Super Beetle for our first piece of new furniture: a mauve sofa.

The man at the furniture store warned us not to get it when he found out we had small children. “You don’t want a mauve sofa” he advised. “Get something the color of dirt.” But with the naive optimism of young parenthood we said, “We know how to handle our children. Give us the mauve sofa.”

From that moment on everyone knew the number one rule in the house. DON’T SIT ON THE MAUVE SOFA. DON’T TOUCH THE MAUVE SOFA. DON’T PLAY AROUND THE MAUVE SOFA. DON’T EAT ON, BREATHE ON, LOOK AT, OR THINK ABOUT THE MAUVE SOFA. It was like the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. “On every other chair in the house you may freely sit, but upon this sofa, the mauve sofa, you may not sit, for in the day you sit thereupon, you shall surely die.”

Then came the Fall.

One day there appeared on the mauve sofa a stain. A red stain. A red jelly stain.

So my wife, who had chosen the mauve sofa and adored it, lined up our three children in front of it: Laura, age four, Mallory, two and a half, and Johnny, six months.

“Do you see that, children?” she asked. “That’s a stain. A red stain. A red jelly stain. The man at the sofa store says it is not coming out. Not forever. Do you know how long forever is, children? That’s how long we’re going to stand here until one of you tells me who put the stain on the mauve sofa.”

Mallory was the first to break. With trembling lips and tear-filled eyes she said “Laura did it.” Laura passionately denied it. Then there was silence, for the longest time. No one said a word. I knew the children wouldn’t, for they had never seen mom so upset. I knew they wouldn’t because they knew that if they did, they would spend eternity in the timeout chair. I knew they wouldn’t because I was the one who put the red jelly stain on the sofa, and I wasn’t saying anything!

The truth is, of course, we have all stained the sofa.

I am a screwup, a sinner. I have a feeling you are too. Over the years, I’ve discovered the church is full of people just like me. We sometimes forget sin is serious. We downplay it in our minds and with our lips because our culture does. In this world in which we live and love, the sense of right and wrong gets mixed up, and we forget or neglect God’s point of view on things. Then we become calloused and don’t even know the difference between right and wrong. We forget the holiness of God who takes sinfulness seriously. Remember Isaiah 6 where the prophet Isaiah had an encounter with God? We have lost the sense of awe of the holiness of God. Isaiah said, “Woe is me for I am in the presence of God, and I am a man of unclean lips.”

So what do we do when we strike out? Here are some things people have been trying for years, but don’t work out very well.

• We may cover it up like King David tried to do when he became too big for his britches and had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba. In Psalm 32 he talks about how it didn’t work out very well for him. “I was miserable. I felt dried up inside.”
• Some tend to ignore it. They pretend it didn’t happen or it doesn’t matter. They live in a lie.
• Others will use self-justification, as if the end justifies the means. I had to do that. There was no other way.
• We have memory distortions of the facts. When they kick in, we convince ourselves that what we did wasn’t wrong.
• Some rationalize their actions. Everybody’s doing this anyway. What’s the big deal?
• We may blame others. She made me do it. Or, my parents screwed me up.
• Others minimize what they’ve done. That was then; this is now. We live in the modern days. We can’t let those old ways of thinking hold us back. It’s not a big deal. Loosen up!
• We may compare ourselves to others. I’m doing okay compared to so-and-so. I haven’t done anything that majorly bad. After all, God is gracious. I’m sure He’ll look past this.

These are unhealthy ways to operate. When I cope with my sin in one of these ways, I am lying to myself. I am actually hurting myself and probably a lot of other people around me. The more I ignore my sin, the more prone I am to do one of these things until I’m numb to the fact that it’s wrong, and I am absolutely captive to this coping mechanism.

When we don’t deal with sin, rotten things can happen. One of those things is depression. I’m not talking about a chemical imbalance in the brain, but guilt turned inward. Psychologists say it can sometimes cause depression as we hide something, driving us further from God.

These activities can also lead to addictions like pornography, which can be difficult to quit. The activity begins slowly, but soon you are hooked on it.

It can put wedges in relationships. We hide in our secret little world and aren’t transparent with others. Instead, we build walls around us so people can’t get close, and it leads to loneliness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer one time wrote, “He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”

It gets in the way of our prayer life with God. Unconfessed sin gets in the way of God hearing our prayer.

These consequences are awful, but the apostle John has a healthy alternative for folks who screw up and don’t live in the light. John was a disciple of Jesus. If anyone would know about living the Christian life and messing up, he would. In this letter near the end of the Bible, we find him addressing a church that he sees needs to go deeper – deeper in their knowledge of the truth of Jesus, deeper as ethical people living God’s way, and deeper in their relationship with God. Some teachers had come into their community and were messing up their minds with some false teaching in these three areas. So John is trying to deepen and strengthen their faith life.

In regard to the handling of sin in one’s life, John says, “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” You are living a lie. It’s unhealthy. You are lying to yourself and everyone around you. A little reality therapy is happening in these words. He is responding to popular opinion of the day – We’re Christians. We all sin. We’re above the need for confessing our sin.

I’ve run into this kind of thinking even during these days. A guy came in to see me a while back. He was fairly new in the faith, and he said, “I’m kind of bothered by things you talk about in church worship services. You talk a lot about sin. I don’t sin!”

I replied, “Let’s examine that.” I took him to the Ten Commandments and asked him some personal questions. By the end, he knew he definitely sins. Then I said, “Some people say That is the Old Testament. What about Jesus? These are Jesus times. So let’s talk about Jesus.” We went into the Sermon on the Mount and found even more conviction. Then I shared the news of forgiveness.

To deny these things is to call God a liar and his word isn’t in us.
We are frauds. We call God a liar when we deny the authority of His word in our lives, which is another great sin.

But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we confess – if we admit, acknowledge, agree with God’s view of us, take responsibility for it, own up, and say I’m sorry, –

God is faithful and just . . .

First of all, God is faithful. He is a good God who always keeps His promises and doesn’t turn away from us.

God is just. He showed His just-ness at the cross as He punished sin through His Son Jesus Christ, who took the wrath of God for us.

God promises to forgive our sins. He will let us off the hook. We don’t have to pay back the debt. I like this definition of forgiveness: give up one’s right to get even. God gave up His right to get even through His Son Jesus Christ at the cross.

He will cleanse us. We will experience a deep cleansing within us, in our hearts. Like the praise song says,

“White as snow; white as snow;
though my sins were as scarlet,
Lord I know, I know,
I’m clean and forgiven.”

We join with David as he says, “Create in me a clean heart.”

John continues,
My little children . . .” which reminds us he is writing to fellow believers whom he loves.

I’m writing these things to you in hopes that you don’t sin . . .
So you will walk obediently in the light of Christ, and love God and one another. Let your light shine for Jesus.

But if you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus, the righteous One.
Don’t forget about Him. He who knew no sin became sin.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, . . .
He lived the perfect righteous life. By dying on the cross, His blood has paid for our sins.

. . . and not only for my sins and your sins, but for the sins of the whole world.
God wants everyone to have His forgiveness.

The truth is confession is a gift from God. It is not something God has us do simply because He needs it. God is not clutching tightly to His mercy as if we have to pry it from His fingers, like little children in a game they play with their dad. No, we need to confess in order to be healed and be changed. It is a practice that helps us become new and clean and transformed and free.

In practicing confession, we are liberated from guilt. We are given the right to leave the past behind, and we have peace with God. We will be less likely to sin in the same way when we confess than if we don’t confess. Sin will look and feel less attractive to us as we put it to words and say it out loud now that it is in the light.

Confession keeps us mindful of what we’re doing with our lives. It reminds us there is a right and wrong. Confession sensitizes us to the fact that God has a perspective on things. It builds humility into us as we again and again face the reality that we don’t have it all together, not even close. It is not necessary for us to live with guilt and regrets, for healing grace is available.

The gift of confession has been given to you and to me to act upon and work within our lives. Scripture says, “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). No more hiding, no more rationalizations, no more ignoring the problem. Instead, confess.

Confess on Sunday in worship. Someone asked why we continue to have confession each week in our church? “A lot of churches don’t,” he said.

“Because your pastor is a screwup. He needs it,” I responded. We confess our sins daily – it’s our daily drowning of the old person in us, our “daily baptism” as Martin Luther calls it. As we step into confession time during our prayers, we place ourselves into the care of the Holy Spirit and ask for His help. As we do self-examination of the last twenty-four hours or so, we see the thoughts and the words and the deeds which are displeasing to our Father. Things that need to be changed, that have hurt others.

Perhaps the examination is simply a matter of going through the Ten Commandments or studying the fruit of the Spirit. Where have I fallen short in love, joy, patience, kindness, and self-control? Help me, oh God. Forgive me. The prayer needs to be specific and concrete – I lied to someone because I wanted to look better than I really am.

At the heart of it, confession just means taking responsibility for what I’ve done. It’s not easy to do. We have all kinds of excuses to skip out of confession, for feeling responsible for ourselves, but we need to take responsibility for our wrongs. Confession is a time to make a new promise about our intentions in the future. We resolve that, with God’s help, we will change our ways. We don’t want to be this way or do this anymore, so we say, These things I resolve to stop! Help me! He will help you through His Holy Spirit’s power.

Finally, claim His grace each day. After you’ve confessed, think about the cross, and claim this verse as you thankfully receive His forgiveness. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” (Romans 8:1).

What do you do with your sin? The best thing I can think of is to confess it. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

Taking a Deeper Walk

I John 1:5-7; 2:3-6; 3:7-10

Recently I was having a conversation with someone about a professional baseball player, and my friend said to me, I really like that guy. He’s a real Christian.

It made me wonder what he meant by that statement. How would you describe what real Christians look like? What is the mark of a real Christian?

Someone might say it is someone who is nice, doesn’t swear, and goes to church a lot. Someone else might quote Jesus and say a Christian is known by how they love one another – “By this people know you’re my disciples” (John 13:35). Another may say a Christian is a person who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and asked Him into their heart.

I believe this is an important question for us because according to surveys three out of four Americans describe themselves as Christians. So how do you know if someone really is a Christian? Maybe you even wonder if you are one.

After the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, early Christians struggled with questions like that. They questioned their own faith as well as the faith and teachings of some preachers whom the apostle Paul called liars – people dangerous to the faith.

The apostle John, one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples sets out to answer this question in today’s text. What are the signs of a real Christian? John describes three litmus tests, so to speak, that tell us if a person is a Christian.

1. The doctrinal test. What do they believe?
2. The ethical test. How do they live?
3. The relational test. Whom do they love?

In today’s passage, John is describing the second test. How do real Christ followers live?

First, John says, a real Christian is someone who walks in the light. John starts by saying the message from Jesus is that God is light and in Him is no darkness (evil). What does this mean? Light refers to God’s holiness, His goodness, His perfect conduct and character. He is describing the ethical, moral conduct and character of the Almighty. Therefore God’s children – those who trust Jesus – are to walk as children of light. They are to act with holiness and goodness, walking in God’s light, not in the darkness of evil. They are to put aside all sin.

John tells us of the benefits of walking in the light: we have fellowship with one another and forgiveness. It makes sense, for obstacles are removed and we enjoy fellowship with other light walkers as we obediently and sacrificially love one another as Jesus commanded us to do. We no longer trip over one another but enjoy and serve one another in holy fellowship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

We also have access to forgiveness when we sin against God and one another. We will never be perfect, but as we walk in the light of God, we also walk in the light of the gospel of forgiveness. We have a Savior who has gone to the cross to pay for our sins and cleanse us in God’s sight. His blood payment for sin provides a never-ending stream of grace, cleansing, and forgiveness for those children of light.

The second thing John points out to us is, real Christians not only walk in the light, but they also walk as Jesus did – obediently. John writes, “Whoever says ‘I know him’ (Jesus) but does not obey his commandments is a liar . . .” That’s strong language. “By this we may know that we are in him,” John says, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which Jesus walked.”

So if someone says they are a Christian, John is saying here, their faith will be evident in their life. Are they walking the talk? Are they living obediently to God’s commands, walking as Jesus walked? Unfortunately, many contemporary Christians are not making that kind of connection in their lives.

Years ago a disturbing Barna poll compared the behavior of so called “born-again” Christians with the rest of the population. These were people who said they had accepted Christ as their Savior and believe the Bible is God’s Word. The survey found that in a thirty-day period, the self-identified Christians were nearly as likely as anyone else to visit a pornographic Web site, take something that didn’t belong to them, physically fight or abuse someone, drink too much, use an illegal drug, say something that wasn’t true, get back at someone for something they did, and say mean things behind someone’s back. Clearly, a gap exists between the belief and the behavior of many people who call themselves Christians. A. W. Tozer wrote, “Millions of professed believers talk as if Jesus were real and act as if He were not. Our actual position is always to be discovered by the way we act, not by the way we talk.”

I came across an interesting story about the Mafia. Award-winning investigative journalist Petra Reski, one of the world’s leading experts on the Italian Mafia, wrote a book called The Honored Society. It delves into the personal lives and faith of its members and supporters. Faith in God and living like a mafioso are fairly common in the strange world of Italian mobsters. For example, Sicilian mafioso Marcelo Fava, who later left his Mafia clan, told an Italian journalist, “Before I had to kill someone, I would cross myself and say, ‘Dear God. Stand by me. Make sure nothing happens.’ But I wasn’t the only one who crossed himself beforehand and prayed to God; we all did.” When Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano was arrested, the police found him with five Bibles, hundreds of his own margin comments and passages underlined. In his home were ninety-one sacred statues, seventy-three of them Christ figures. Each one of them bore the inscription, Jesus, I put my trust in you.

Mafia boss Michele Greco had four books in his prison cell: two liturgical books, the Gospels, and a prayer book entitled, “Pray, Pray”. During his trial when asked for an explanation to his many murders, he merely replied, “I have an invaluable gift – inner peace.”

John would say this is a problem. “Whoever claims to abide in Christ will walk as Jesus walked.” In the Bible, the word “walk” is used to describe one’s daily living, one’s conduct, their behavior. Your walk must match your talk. If you talk about Jesus on Sunday, then live like Jesus the rest of the week. Years ago it was popular to have these WWJD bracelets (What Would Jesus Do?) I suggest that instead of WWJD, a better question to ask is, What would Jesus do if He were me? (taken from author Dallas Willard). For instance, if Jesus were a parent, what kind of a parent would He be? Which TV shows would He allow His children watch? How much screen time would they get? How attentive would He be to the kids’ health and the friends they choose? How often would He read to them or pray for them?

Or say, if Jesus were an employee, what kind of employee would He be? I imagine He would be known for His integrity, His work ethic, His servant-like attitude toward customers and fellow employees. If Jesus were a retiree, what do you suppose He would be like? Would He stop serving people in the name of the kingdom of God because it’s time to kick back, relax, and just have fun? Or would His prayers still have a God-use-me-somehow attitude in them? Kingdom people never retire philosophy. Would He still consider Himself a student of God’s Word and the world, always exercising His mind in order to know, love, and serve God until His last breath?

Finally, John says a real Christian not only walks in the light and walks as Jesus walked (obediently to God’s commands), a real Christian also strives for righteousness in their life. Striving for righteousness is striving do what is right in God’s sight, playing out your life for an audience of One – your heavenly Father – no matter what price tag may be attached to it. True followers of Christ, according to John, do not habitually and recklessly violate their Holy Spirit anointing, their new life. You have been born anew through the Holy Spirit. You have a different set of values now. You’ve been given power from on high to do life God’s way. The hearts of genuine Christians have been so transformed, they can no longer live in a continual pattern of sin and lawlessness, at least not with a good conscience. It’s a new day, a new life you’ve been given.

Lynn Sullivan tells a story that illustrates the ridiculousness of trying to hang onto the old. “In the late 1920s,” he writes, “my grandparents married and moved into grandpa’s old family home. It was a clapboard house with a hall down the middle. In the 30s, they decided to tear down the old house and build another to be their home for the rest of their lives. Much to my grandmother’s dismay, many of the materials of the old house were reused in their new house. They used told facings and doors and many other pieces of the finishing lumber. Everywhere my grandmother looked, she saw that old house – old doors that wouldn’t shut properly, crown molding split and riddled with nail holes, unfinished window trimming. It was a source of grief to her. All her life she longed for a new house.”

Sullivan says, “When God brings us into the kingdom, the old way of living must be dismantled and discarded.” We live for righteousness’ sake. John points out that Jesus appeared to destroy the works of the devil in the first place. He came to set us free from the devil and his ways, from the darkness, for us to not go back to him. Following Christ means being in an all-out war with evil and the devil as our Lord was. We are on Christ’s side now. We’ve been transferred from the old kingdom into His kingdom.

John says, Little, children, don’t let anyone deceive you. Practicing righteousness matters to God. It’s how we, who have received the status of righteousness through Christ’s death on the cross, live. We live it out in response to His love for us.

So there we have it from John!
• Real Christians walk in the light of God.
• Real Christians walk as Jesus walked – obediently.
• Real Christians walk the paths of righteousness doing the right thing for an audience of One.

Personal question – How is your walk going these days? Are you walking the talk? Would you like to go deeper in your relationship with the Lord? That is what John is trying to help us do today, because it is where growth and a deeper relationship with God happen in one’s life. After you’ve said yes to Jesus Christ, going deeper doesn’t just mean knowing more about Christ, but becoming more and more like Christ, walking as He did, living as an apprentice to Him and learning the abundant life.

Why not take a step today toward a deeper walk with your Lord? Let your light shine as you commit yourself to walking in the light of God, obediently doing life God’s way, Christ’s way, the right way. It is in doing that, my friends, that you will find the depth and the real life Jesus Christ came to give to you and to me.

Do you want a deeper walk? Walk in the light. Walk as Jesus walked. Walk the way of righteousness. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

Deeper Joy Can Be Yours

I John 1:1-4

I have an important personal question for you today. How would you describe your faith life? Would you describe it as strong? Deep? Intimate? Filled with joy? Throughout my own ministry I have come across people who wistfully say things like, I wish I had a deeper walk with God. Or a deeper well to draw from that never runs dry. I wish I had a sense of God really being with me, empowering me, leading me, guiding me. I wish I had a deeper joy and enthusiasm and confidence.

That’s exactly what the apostle John wants to assist us in realizing, as we read his letter and act upon it. John had the privilege of walking with Jesus down those dusty roads of Galilee for three years. He observed and learned from Jesus, which impacted his life in amazing ways.

John, along with his brother James, had been a rather rough-and-tumble character. They were called the Sons of Thunder – referring to their boisterousness, looking out for themselves. Climbing the ladder of success and power was at the top of their agenda. They became angry to the point of wanting to destroy people who would not receive their friend Jesus.

Now those attitudes are gone. This letter doesn’t sound anything like those guys. John has changed into a confident, loving servant of Christ. We find him anxious to pass along some very important truths that can change our lives.

We are going to examine this letter for the next few weeks. John’s purpose in this letter is to convey to his readers the joy he has found through years of living with Jesus.

John is so anxious to make his point with us that he skips the formality you would normally find in a New Testament letter. This letter’s opening has no dear so-and-so, grace and peace to you, or introduction of himself as a servant of Christ. John cuts right to the chase as he begins with a proclamation: We testify and proclaim to you!

Who is this we? John means himself along with the other apostles of Jesus and first-generation Christian witnesses of Jesus.

When someone issues a proclamation, he is saying, Hey, this is an important announcement! Listen up! Take it in and act upon it!

So what’s the proclamation? It’s all about Jesus! Look at this proclamation’s opening words; he says “that which was from the beginning.” This takes us back to the Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.” John is describing the pre-existence of Christ. Jesus was there in the beginning. He’s the Son of God. He writes, He was made manifest (or revealed) to us.

John then launches into his personal testimony about life with Jesus. John says I have walked with Him, I have heard Him say in person say “If you see me you have seen the Father.” I have gazed upon Him and marveled at Him as I saw Him feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes, or calm a storm upon the sea or raise His friend Lazarus back to life. With my own eyes I saw Jesus resurrected after His death upon a cross, and I have touched Him. I’ve leaned on Him during the Last Supper in the Upper Room. I remember His hand upon my shoulder as He encouraged me. He’s not made up; He’s not an illusion; He’s not an apparition of some sort. He is for real!

John is using court language used in ancient days, as if he were swearing out a deposition. This is not just a bunch of charming tales about Jesus, John says. Rather he stresses that he is an eyewitness, and he is testifying to the truth of Jesus. Christ really existed, and He really did all that you’ve heard about Him!

The experience I had with Him has impacted and changed my life. The words John is using for this deposition is in the present tense which indicates a past action that continues to have results in his life. I took this all in, and my head is still spinning with wonder and ecstasy as I think about all these events.

Tim Keller, a wonderful preacher, writes, “When a great big truck goes over a tiny little bridge, sometimes there’s a bridge-quake, and when a big man goes onto thin ice there’s an ice-quake. Whenever Jesus Christ comes down into a person’s life, there’s a life-quake. Everything is reordered.” Changed! John had a life-quake!

John is saying Jesus is life – real life! Living in an intimate, personal relationship with God the Father can give you a whole new God-filled life, an abundant life like Jesus said. So stick with Jesus.

John is writing to the second and third generation Christians who hadn’t had the experience of living with Jesus – seeing, hearing, and touching Him as John did for three years. Now it is later in history, and apparently doubts and questions about Jesus were starting to creep into people’s minds. Pastor John is nudging them back to sticking with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Some very profound, life-changing truths are being promoted in this opening proclamation, and John doesn’t want us to miss out on them.

The first thing he wants us to know is that Jesus is for real. He who was in the beginning – the Son of God – has entered our world to rescue and save us. He is God in the flesh made manifest. We saw Him, we touched Him, we watched Him die and rise from the grave.

I came across this Christmas illustration given to children and their parents by Pastor John Piper. It explains what Christmas is. It goes like this:

“Kids, suppose you and your mom get separated in the grocery store. You start to get scared and panic and don’t know which way to go, so you run to the end of an aisle. Just before you start to cry, you see a shadow on the floor at the end of the aisle that looks just like your mom. It makes you happy, and you feel hopeful.

“Which is better, happiness at seeing the shadow or having your mom step around the corner, and it’s really her? That is the way it is when Jesus came to be our Savior.

“That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing.”

Christmas really happened, John is saying. The miracles, the teachings, the crucifixion and resurrection really happened. Jesus is the real thing to be taken seriously.

We are also informed by John that salvation is by grace and grace alone. Notice John refers to Jesus in this section as “the Word of Life.” He also says Jesus is eternal life. Jesus doesn’t just point us to eternal life like other religions might; Jesus himself is eternal life. He is salvation itself! He is God’s gift of salvation to the world. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus is a gift – salvation. To unite with Jesus in faith is to receive eternal life – not just heaven but a new life, an abundant life, beyond worldly imagination in the here and now.

Salvation is something we cannot produce on our own. It has to be a gift. We cannot make it happen on our own by trying to live a good life to get God’s approval in some way. We must let go of those old notions. It is a new day. Jesus has come.

Salvation is a gift that is ours when we connect with Jesus, when we humbly ask Him to take over our lives, to be our Savior and our Lord and our friend.

I know it sounds simple, ordinary, and odd, but as John is pointing out to us today, it is the truth. Salvation is by grace shown us in Jesus Christ.

This leads us to the third truth of our passage. We have a deep, close, personal fellowship with the Son and God the Father. Listen to John again: “That which we have seen and heard, we proclaim to you so that you too may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship indeed is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

John is saying, You can have the same fellowship with the Father and the Son that we who have seen Him and touched Him have enjoyed. You can come to know Him personally as your friend like we have. You can share in His life with us. You, too, can see He is God in real life form and He reveals the Father to us. As you read the Gospels, you are able to see His beauty like we did in His wisdom, power, goodness, love, brilliance, and compassion, showing us the Father in all He says and does. You, too, can experience Him drawing near to you as you draw near to Him in prayer.

What a great thing God has provided for us! Amen? He has gone to infinite lengths to make this deep, intimate relationship with Him possible for the likes of you and me. What amazing love and grace!

John testifies in this passage, God will bring about changes in your life like He did in mine!

In what way? you might wonder. John says you can have joy! “We’re writing these things to you so our joy may be complete.” When he talks about ‘our joy,’ he’s talking about the readers as well as himself.

Jesus came to bring His joy into our lives. He said, “So you have pain now, but I’ll see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22). He wants to give us joy that can never be taken away.

Jesus also said, “I have told you these things that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Your life will be filled up with it. Jesus came to give us joy, a deep happiness that runs through us – no matter what the circumstance. In fact, we probably should not call it happiness, because happiness revolves more around circumstances. But joy is a deep sense of well-being that runs through us no matter what the circumstances. It is living with the assurance of the love and care of God.

Author Kay Warren, who experienced the tragedy of her son’s suicide, wrote a book called “Choose Joy Because Happiness Isn’t Enough.” In it she writes that she used to think joy was feeling good all the time. But that is impossible, and it also doesn’t gibe with Scripture. So she concludes, “The scriptural definition of joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details in my life. It’s the quiet confidence that eventually everything will be all right and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

Life is not easy, but Kay Warren, a friend of Jesus, has Jesus joy, and it has been carrying her these days. It will carry you too.

How fascinating that the great Christian author and apologist C. S. Lewis entitled the autobiography of his spiritual journey, “Surprised by Joy.” I invite you to read it. He moved from being an atheist to an agnostic to being a Christian. He says he was surprised by joy.

John tells us we have the joy of fellowship with God in our daily living. But our joy will not be complete until we have the same joy and fellowship with God the disciples had.

Something I have noticed along the way in ministry is the joy of the church as it leads others to Jesus Christ. As it is sharing the good news, stepping out for Jesus, and then observing lives being changed in wonderful ways by the Savior. This is the old pastor’s aim in this letter. John testifies, I’m writing this because I want you to have what I have. I want you to share in that with me – salvation, fellowship with God and the Son, deeper joy.

Why is this so important to John? As an obedient servant, he knew it is the life God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit wants us to have. He felt responsible to share it. It is the reason God sent His Son into our world – to sacrifice His life on the cross for us and be raised from the grave, so we might have that kind of new life in Christ – eternal life in a relationship with Him. It is the reason why God sent His Holy Spirit on Pentecost, so we might be one with Him. As we unite our lives with His and live with Him through the Word and the community of faith, He changes us in new and wonderful ways. We get “Jesus joy.”

I am here to tell you it is yours for the receiving. Scripture tells us “To all who receive Him, who ask Him into their life, He gives the power to become the children of God” (John 1:12). He is available. Just like the Christmas carol says,
“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”

That is the Good News! Joy is available to you today. Turn to Jesus. He is knocking on the door of your life right now. Won’t you trust Him and invite Him in? You will be glad you did. Amen.

Rev. Steve Kramer