1 JOHN (62nd Letter, Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters)

My Spirit worked deeply in My friend Dietrich Bonhoeffer when Dietrich was in a Nazi prison camp, awaiting a hangman’s noose. In a poem called ‘Who Am I?’, My faithful child recorded what happened when his narrow road became crushingly narrow. Dietrich felt himself to be ‘struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing’ his throat. ‘Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance’ – he would never marry or again see his fiance. And he felt weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making.’

But even as he felt that way, Dietrich was seen by others as a man stepping from his “cell’s confinement, calmly, firmly, like a squirrel from his country home;” as a man who spoke to his captors ‘freely and friendly and clearly’ as though the guards were his ‘to command’; as a man who bore ‘the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, as want to customed to win.’

I wept as I listened to My suffering child agonize over the same questions you’re now asking: ‘Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?’

But I listened with joy as My Spirit led Dietrich through the narrowness of confusion into the open country of certainty. He reached deep into Dietrich’s heart as he is now reaching deep into yours. Under His influence, Dietrich wrote: ‘Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.’

This is what I want you to hear as you read my 62nd love letter:

You are Mine. The life that defines My Son now defines you. You are alive in Me. You are alive to Me. You are alive with Me. Inexpressible joy is yours for asking … on My Spirits timetable.

Never deny My Spirit sovereignty. The divine wind of joy blows as He chooses. And never deny your responsibility. You exist in My light. You don’t always walk in My light. To walk in My light requires that you pay more attention to your failure to love than to the pain you feel when others fail to love you. When the light of how My Son and I relate in perfect love reveals the dark stains in how you relate, confess your failure to Me, immediately. Agree with Me that how you’re relating is awful, vile, despicable; that you hate it as I do. When you confess your sins, I will not only forgive the relational failures you see, but I will also clean up everything you have yet to see that keeps you feeling at a distance from Me [1 John 1:5-9]. If you understand relational sin, confession will become a daily exercise.

Discouragement, when it drives you to Me in broken confession rather than away from Me in wounded pride, brings the realism of humility. You are never without sin. Whether you recognize it or not, there is never a moment when you relate as perfectly as My Son. One day you will. Until then, humility will free you to live in awe of My endless supply of grace. And the worship that awe inspires will release more of My Son’s life to flow out of you into others, even into those who have hurt you though never as badly as you hurt me [1 John 1:10; 2:1-12]

But you must be on your guard. There are teachers in the church today who focus more on what I have called you to do than on who I have created you to be and who you now are because of My Son.

1 JOHN: The Fruit of Fellowship with Christ – From Ray Stedman<-(click here for entire Bible summary)

John was one who was dramatically changed by our Lord. He was a young man, the youngest of all the disciples. In fact, many scholars feel that he was a teenager when he first started to follow the Lord. Perhaps he was seventeen or eighteen years of age. Along with his brother, James, he was a hot-headed young man, given to sharp and impulsive utterances with a tendency toward blowing off steam. He was probably a loudmouth, because Jesus nicknamed him ‘Son of Thunder.’ That was our Lord’s gentle way of labeling John’s problem. He just kept the thunder rolling all the time. So our Lord called both James and John “Sons of Thunder,” {Mark 3:17}. But John became the apostle of love. He was noted for his gentleness and his graciousness and his goodness. He was called “the virgin.” As far as we know, he never married. There is no record that he ever did. But he was called “virgin” primarily because of the purity of his life. He became a man who was characterized by such an outstanding devotion and love for the Lord Jesus, that all his life he was singled out as the apostle of love.

This first letter of John is possibly the last of the New Testament to be written. It is perhaps, therefore, the last word we have from the apostles. It undoubtedly comes from near the close of the 1st century, perhaps even the year 100 A.D., as some scholars tell us. It was possibly written to the Christians in the city of Ephesus, who were facing (as we are) dangers and difficulties of living in a godless, pagan world, given over to the worship of sex and to licentious practices, lovers of human wisdom (as all these Greek cities were) and especially desirous of exalting man and his abilities. Now that sounds
very much like our modern western world, doesn’t it?

The freshness, the vitality, the newness, the excitement, the drama of the Christian faith had begun to lose its glow and its glamour. John, therefore, is led of God to call people back to the vital things, the things that make for real life. So he is concerned about an authentic Christian manifestation, and authentic Christianity is always made up of the same three elements – truth, righteousness, and love. The
letter gives us a wonderful measuring stick whereby we can test our own lives:
· How are we doing?
· Do we fulfill the qualifications?
· Do we manifest truth, righteousness and love?

Someone has said that it is possible to search through all the writings of Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Confucius and Buddha, and other great world leaders of moral and ethical thought, to find everything that is written in the New Testament that exhorts man as to what to do. In other words, if all you need is good advice, you do not need the
Bible. You find an expression of the Golden Rule, always in a negative form, in other religions:
“Do not do to others as you do not want them to do to you.” Ah, but in Christ you find the secret of how! It is by unity with him – union with him, fellowship with the Lord Jesus – he dwelling in you and you dwelling in him. That is what John begins to talk about.

The first theme he talks about under the heading of truth. The truth about Jesus is that he is God and man.

Now this was opposed to a philosophy that was very current in John’s day, gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that matter is evil and spirit is
good. Therefore, the purpose of this life is to teach us how to somehow rise above the evil of our body and release the spirit from the evil, material body, thus achieving nirvana or whatever you want to call it.

It is against that idea that John writes, and says, “Now don’t follow that” because Jesus has come in truth. The truth about Jesus is that he came as God, became man, and anybody who does not say that about Jesus Christ is a liar. There were many people back in those days who gave the appearance of being suave and gentle and thoughtful and courteous. They were not out to destroy Christianity; they were out to improve upon it. They attempted to make Christianity intellectually respectable. This process is still going on today. But John says that if you give way to this, if you succumb to this kind of delusion, you will find that you have been tricked and end up not a Christian at all. You will be following a lie and become a victim of a sham and a delusion.

In the second section, the apostle emphasized righteousness. Christianity is not just signing the doctrine or creed. It is more than
truth; it is also righteousness. It means that your behavior changes.

These Gnostics were saying, “Look, if spirit is good and matter is evil, and our bodies are matter, then the only thing that counts is the spirit. What you do with your body doesn’t make any difference. So if you want to indulge the lusts of it, go ahead. It won’t affect your spiritual standing with God.” But, the two are incompatible. You cannot have the
Holy Spirit living in you and live an unholy life. If you live the unholy life and profess to be a Christian, you are a liar, says John.

Yet, there is still a third thing. It is easy for Christians to say today, “Well, yes, this is true. We’ve got to teach the truth, obey the truth, and
believe the truth about Christ. And of course, we’ve got to stop doing the things the world is doing.” That is as far as they go. Have you heard Christians get up and testify along this line? They say, “I used to smoke and drink and dance and go to the movies and play cards and gamble and all these terrible things. But I don’t do any of them any more. I believe in the Lord. I’ve stopped all these things.” They leave the impression that it ought to make everyone become a Christian, to see
such a tremendous change. But worldlings can stop doing these things if they have a good reason. And they do it. If that is the basis of your Christian testimony, you have got nothing more to say than they do. No, the world is not a bit impressed by stopping something. What does impress them is seeing you do something they cannot do. That is love.

Then the final result, and the closing note of the letter, is assurance. You know things with a knowledge that is unshakable, which nobody can shatter, and no rational arguments will disturb.

Here is his final word and it is such an important one. One that I think ought to ring in our ears every day:
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 Jn 5:21)

Why? Well, because the first and great commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” {Matt 22:37b RSV}. That is the chief end of man. And idolatry is loving something else as God. What is an idol? It is a substitute God.

What is important to you, that is your God.
Little children – you who have found the true God – keep yourselves from these secondary idols, these substitute gods that demand your attention. Give yourself, alone, to the One who can and will lead us safely through all the difficulties along our path.

1 JOHN – David Jeremiah (Understanding the 66 Books of the Bible)

Key thought: Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh. Those who reject Him have the spirit of antichrist. Those who receive Him are children of light with the assurance of everlasting life.

Key Verse: These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13

Key Action: He laid down His life for us, and we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (see 1 John 3:16).