I phoned a friend of mine who had been suffering a little for some time, and nearly fell off my chair when I heard his excitement. He told me how the Lord had blessed him with work and how his trucks were running to and fro the whole day long. He thanked God for that, and also could not stop telling me about his new girlfriend. He had moved in with her just the previous day. What’s that? Yes, they are so happy together. Why should they keep two households running? It’s much less expensive to combine the two.
We trick ourselves. We are so used to “everyone does it”, that we no longer see the sin in our actions. With some nice trickery and some gymnastic thinking I ask God on the one hand to help me, but on the other hand I’m living in sin. How do we make that work? It seems to me it’s time to go back to the rock. Yes, it’s time to go and sit on a rock and make sure that we are not blinded by the wrong things that happen just like that in our lives. Without us realising it, sin slips back into our lives. We become so used to it that it doesn’t even bother us that wrong has become right.
Let’s be clear with one another: God doesn’t like it. This is the reason why He sent Jesus to earth – to knock sin down. Yes, to give His life so that we can and will get rid of the sin in our lives to stand clean before God: 4 … for sin is a major disruption of God's order.
I am sure Jesus is very hurt when He sees us befriending sin and living close to sin. I know it is probably not theologically correct to say that Jesus is crucified over and over again as we continue doing the wrong things. But aren’t we then denying His life-saving work on the cross? Aren’t we undoing His death on the cross by continuing to do wrong? God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit do not like seeing us doing this. While we are playing around with sin, what is the Holy Spirit who lives in us supposed to do? Look the other way? What are we doing? And minutes later we are praising His name for everything He gives us?
Maybe you don’t want to continue reading now, because this simply sounds too much. But sometimes we just have to face the music. This isn’t a scolding session. No, in a way we are simply being reminded of the very simple message: 4 All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God's order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. This is a very simple message: if you break God’s rules, you choose to deny God’s will and then you are doing wrong. Finish and klaar.
What now? 6No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. The biggest tip here is to look closely at Jesus so that we can have an intimate relationship with Him. Only when we have an intimate relationship with Jesus, we will start realising when we are doing wrong. Then we’ll feel uncomfortable when we do wrong. Then we’ll feel bad when we know that we’re busy with things that Jesus doesn’t like at all.
Friends, please see this message as a stop sign, a chance to get away from the race of life, to go and sit on a rock and look at God’s rules again, comparing them to you own life. The Spirit will help you and show you where you are getting too close to the wrong thing. With everything in you build an intimate relationship with God. Make time to spend time with God.
Where are you getting too close to sin?
Scripture: 1 John 3:4-10
Here at the end of Peter’s letter to the church of Rome he calls on the Christians to try with all their might to live the right life with passion: 18 Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Glory to the Master, now and forever! Yes! This applies to each of us. We must try everything possible to learn more about God. We can’t just plod along and think we’ll be different when we reach the other side.
A friend invited me to the Stellenbosch Wine Festival. Nowadays this is a big thing in our town. Last time I attended I was still a student, but then we attended for other reasons. Now my friend and I walked around tasting a little of all the wines from the top cellars (so sad you have to spit it all out, but if you don’t, you will soon get sloshed – which as students we didn’t really took note of). I really enjoyed listening to my friend talk about every little taste, because you see, Johan is one of the top wine makers in the country. He discussed each wine with a passion. As the wine slipped over his tongue, you could see the sparkle in his eye and his comments unlocked the flavours on my tongue as well.
At one stage we were standing at their cellar’s stand and as I tasted one of his chenin blancs again I got tears in my eyes. I felt really stupid, because why would such a full and flavourful wine on your tongue move you to tears! Well, I don’t have an answer. Maybe because the wine touched more than my taste buds. Maybe because I was enjoying it so much. Maybe because I was overcome by the unbelievable privilege that I had to taste more. Maybe because I knew the man behind the wine. I knew this wine was made with passion. The grapes were passionately cared for throughout the year to again produce another good one. Passionately Johan worked in the cellars and pressed and fermented and settled and mixed to get it right. And then softly, right at the end, Johan acknowledged that it was not just him.
When I ask him about this, his answer is something like: “to live from the Lord’s loving grace”. The Lord’s love and grace flow over us. We must know it and we must live it purposefully. Yes, it doesn’t always go well for Johan or for me or for you. Sometimes the wine doesn’t come out right and the next morning your head will be throbbing because there is too much sulphur in it. At times mistakes are made and medals aren’t won. But God’s love and grace cannot and will not ever be taken away from us. And this is what we need to remember to live in the love and grace of God every day.
Being able to make good wine didn’t just happen to Johan. No, he had to work hard, study hard and spend a lot of time to get where he is today. We must apply this in our lives and take Peter’s words to heart: Grow in … understanding of our Master and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Let’s take this last pieve of advice from Peter. Let’s take trouble to learn more about God. Let’s take trouble to learn what God wants. Let’s take trouble to fire our passion for life. Let’s take trouble to pass that love and grace on to the people around us so that the aroma of Jesus’ love and grace can also burst open in their lives.
Do you live in Jesus’ grace?
Can others see Jesus’ love in you?
Do you live life with passion?
Does Jesus’ love and grace burst open in others because of you?
It is burning in John. It is burning to tell as many people as possible about Jesus, what He came to do on earth, and that all people should believe in Him. People didn’t know how or where or when. They might have heard the news about Jesus who had been on earth a couple of years previously, but they did not understand everything about the life after this life and that Jesus indeed came to unlock heaven for all those who believe in Him. 3 We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so that you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. 4Your joy will double our joy.
I cannot choose my earthly family. My parents, brothers and sisters were chosen for me. I cannot simply decide one day that I don’t like them and go looking for another family. But I do have a choice to become part of God’s family and what a prominent family this is! God is the Father. Jesus is my brother! But this family has many other benefits. All who are members of this family will not go to hell when they leave this earth one day; they will rest in the lush meadows of heaven! How unbelievable is that? Wouldn’t everybody want a chance to do that?
It is a simple message. These people were with Jesus. They walked with Him along dusty roads. Some of them heard Him preaching, but they still choose not to join God’s family. Why are they so blind? Why are they so stubborn? But this is certainly not abnormal, because today many people still walk around doing the same. For one reason or another they just don’t choose Jesus. Yes, they may have heard the message. Maybe they even chose Jesus and God’s family, but the noise of the world cut those family relations.
Maybe I must look in the mirror first. Maybe I should first ask myself whether I’m still part of God’s family. If I ask my neighbour or colleague or the people working for me, if they know who my family is, what will they say? 6If we claim that we experience a shared life with Him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth – we’re not living what we claim.
Maybe these verses are our wake-up call! Each of us must go and make sure and realise that we can be part of a wonderful family. When we realise that, we must also go and look at our behaviour. When I’m part of God’s family, my behaviour must be aligned with that, because as you know, actions speak louder than words. And like John, we also want all people, especially those closest to us, to be part of the family that enjoys such wonderful benefits. But then our behaviour must be in line with what we believe. Then my actions must be in line with the family of which I’m a member. The scary thing is that the way in which I act and live can deter others from becoming part of this wonderful family. Yes, I’ve done business with so-called Christian business people whose way of doing things really did not remind me of God’s family.
Let’s choose again to be a part of God’s family. Let’s take a magnifying glass and study our behaviour so that we can be sure that we’re not doing anything to discourage others from becoming part of God’s family. Let us do things that will make others long to also be a part of God’s family. Just like John, we must burn with the desire to tell all that we come into contact with about God – and let our actions confirm it!
Are you part of God’s family?
Does your behaviour show it?
Who close to you must still become part?
Some time ago I had to talk to people at a factory and I also showed them the movie The Passion of the Christ. They must have thought I was angry with them when I started talking. But I was forceful. I was serious about the fact that the Lord wanted each of them to join Him in heaven one day. And I explained it to them in simple language: “If you do not choose Jesus at one time or another in your life, you will go to hell. You are going to burn and it certainly won’t be nice. However, if you choose Jesus, you will live for ever and ever. Yes, one day you will leave your body behind, but after this life, you will live again.”
I begged those people to choose Jesus. Because He died on the cross we will one day be able to experience Eternal Life. And it is precisely this message that John wants to convey to his readers. 2 The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in the most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
What we do not always realise is that the life that we live here on earth is very short, even if you get to be a 100. It does not even make a mark on the time line of eternity. I always use the example of a block of granite one metre by one metre by one metre in size. Once a year a very small bird comes and sharpens his beak on that block of granite. Just once a year, a very small bird. The day when that big block of granite is worn away by that one small bird sharpening his beak once a year, even on that day, not one day of eternity will have passed.
The few years of your life on earth is a time in which, firstly, you have to make a choice about where you want to go after this life on earth, and, secondly, you have to prepare for the trip. God wants each of us to make our own choice. God does not force His will on people. Therefore, He gives us an earthly life during which we ourselves can choose for Him or against Him. God made it easier for us to choose Him by sending Jesus to us. In Him, we can see God. In Him, we also see a picture of eternal life. By default, making no choice, is to choose against Him.
This is not pie in the sky, something we can only dream about. No, Jesus, who is closest to God, showed us what it is all about through His life here on earth. We just have to choose it. But there are people who choose the direct opposite. This reminds me of a guy who once asked me to remove his e-mail address from the mailing list, because he did not believe in God and Crossroad was just @#$% him off. This is a choice against God and against Jesus and against Eternal Life and for hell . . .
However, if we choose Eternal Life, we also choose to be knocked “into shape” for Eternal Life. We must keep our eyes on the winning posts, because that’s where we’re heading!
And that is why I had to talk so seriously to the people after The Passion of the Chris. I’m afraid that they’ll miss the bus. And in a way I was just like John: 3We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so that you can experience it along with us. We cannot keep the message to ourselves. There are many people out there just waiting for us to come and tell them the message. Children, spouses, friends and colleagues. So, include the message of Eternal Life when you spend time with them.
Do you believe that there is life after death?
Are you ready for it?
What must still be cut off?
Who must you tell about eternal life?
When are you going to do it?
John was one of Jesus’s disciples. It is good to hear stories about Jesus from people who walked with Him. Yes, sometimes we doubt and then we wonder whether Jesus really walked on this earth. But here we have it straight from the horse’s mouth: 1 From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in – we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands.
This gives us peace of mind. Then, when we read the Word of God we can believe it. This is not just a story created by a human being. It gives value to the Word of God. But even more than that: It tells each of us to listen to what is written in the Word of God. We must read carefully and model our lives on it.
When I read something and it stands out, or it bothers me when I hesitate a little at the same message every time I read it, I have to realise that the Living God is talking to me. Then I know that God wants to say something to me through His Word. Just as certainly as John believed that Jesus was the Son of God, I believe in God speaking to us through His Word as well. And I quote from Crossroad’s website a small piece of what I believe:
† I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but even more than this: I believe that Jesus is God too.
† I believe that Joseph and Maria were not intimate before they got married.
† I believe that Jesus played in the dust in front of the temple and heard the nonsense people were talking about God and everything about Him. I can see the surprise on the church people’s faces as this young boy speaks about His Father. I can see them becoming upset.
† I believe that Jesus walked on this earth nearly 2 000 years ago and taught His twelve disciples. I believe that Jesus did all the miracles, even feeding a crowd on fish and bread. I also believe that there was a lot left over.
† AND the most important for me: I believe that Christ died for all my sins on the cross. His Blood deleted all my debts on the cross and simply because of that I do not have to carry a heavy burden of debt around with me. Because of Jesus I am free!
† I believe that Jesus rose from the dead and conquered evil.
† I believe that Jesus ascended to heaven alive and also sits on God’s right hand.
† Yes! Definitely! I do Believe!
It is really sad that so many people miss this bus. They simply cannot believe that Jesus is real. This story is just too good to be true. No, man, it can’t be true. I wonder, is it because they cannot get their heads around the enormity of God’s love for so many sinful people that it sounds like a fairy tale to them? How sad that people’s cleverness trip them up and make them miss the bus of Eternal Life.
Every now and then all of us, if we are not on the bus, should pause at the bus stop and reflect on the reasons why we’re not on the bus. Maybe it would be a good idea for you to write down what it is that you believe in. Put it inside your Bible and read it again and again, so that what you believe in can determine the direction for your life. When you have to make a decision, big or small, does it fit with what you believe about Jesus? Does it help you to stay on the bus or does it make you want to get off?
And while you are peacefully enjoying your ride on the bus of Eternal Life, look and see if there is someone at the bus stop, a friend or family member, who is wondering whether this is the right bus. Get off the bus and go get them. You may be the last one who can help that person not to miss the bus!
Are you on the bus?
What do you believe in?
Who do you have to help get on the bus?
In the previous section John gave his perspective of the Holy Spirit who had been given to us as Guide. Like a guide dog “makes” a blind person “see” and helps him find his own way in the darkness, the Holy Spirit helps us find our way and to stay on the path.
But we know that we don’t always get it right, because very quickly the noise of the world rushes in, drowning out the voice of the Holy Spirit. Then we stand at the cross-road not knowing which way to turn – and the more uncertain we become about the decision we have to take, the more the noise confuses us. John understands this and therefore he gives us a piece of invaluable, but simple advice: 28 And now, children, stay with Christ. Live deeply in Christ.
Very simple. It’s quite similar to the time many years ago when I worked as a waiter in the Spur. When a new waiter who still had to learn started work, we called it shadowing, because for the first couple of days the new person had to follow you around like a shadow. He just had to watch what you were doing.
The new waiter did not speak to the clients, not even to the cooks. He could only ask you questions. In this way, slowly, he started to learn what it meant to be a waiter and started doing the things that waiters do.
This is what John means: We have to walk in Jesus’ shadow every day, because in Jesus’ shadow we’ll learn how to act, how to live God’s will in our lives every day.
This is a very nice story and it sounds just right, but what does it mean for me in the reality of my life? It simply means that every time before I make a decision I must consider what Jesus would have done. I still remember how irritated one would get with the new, young waiters following you around so enthusiastically. Yes, it was nice to have someone who could carry your clients’ dirty plates to the kitchen for you, but the many questions drove you mad. But then, after a few days you would see the new waiter making it on his own, you would see his self-confidence growing, the big smile when a satisfied client leaves him a big tip.
We must walk in Jesus’ shadow just as enthusiastically. Every time when I have to make a choice I must ask questions. Before I open my mouth to snap at someone, I must first ask Jesus what is the right way to do something. When I decide to give a nasty sign to someone driving like a lunatic, here in Jesus’ shadow I must ask Him a question. When I sit with the TV remote in my hand to select a channel, I must ask first. When someone offers me a load of cash, I must first ask a question. Jesus will never, ever get tired of my questions. He will answer every time. Yes, He will!
Jesus knows what He is talking about, because He was here, with His dusty feet. He knows about people deceiving other people. He knows about people being tempted every day. He knows about having too little money and not having enough to cover everything. He knows about giving the right answers. 29 Once you're convinced that he is right and righteous, you'll recognize that all who practice righteousness are God's true children. The inventor knows his invention best. When Alexander Graham Bell designed the telephone in 1877 nobody on earth understood it better than he did. He knew precisely what the telephone could do and not do. He knew where it needed to be developed further. He knew the inside and outside like the back of his hand, because he designed it and he put it together.
This is the way that God knows our inside and outside the best.
He knows precisely what we can do and where we need adjustment. And on God’s right hand, in His shadow, sits Jesus who also knows everything about us, because here in God’s shadow His relationship with God is perfect. Therefore, we have to try and live in Jesus’ shadow. He has the answers; we just have to ask Him and He will guide us in the right direction.
When we continue to ask Jesus and start doing the right thing ourselves as time goes by, eventually we’ll do what God wants us to do. Then we will stand the test of time. Then we will get the biggest prize at the end of the race: Then we'll be ready for him when he appears, ready to receive him with open arms.
Yes, then the world will see we’re true children of God. No, even more, then the people around us will also experience that a child of God can make a difference. May others then also go and walk in Jesus’ shadow and learn, because they have seen and felt what we do.
In whose shadow do you walk?
How can you walk even more in Jesus’ shadow?
Who is there around you that needs a real child of God?
Scripture: 1 John 2:24-29
Enjoy the weekend shadowing!
Many evenings here in our beautiful town a dad goes for a walk with his adult son who is blind. The son walks head high and full of confidence next to his dad who steers him gently by the arm. No stumbling or hesitant, uncertain steps. A good quick pace, good exercise for both father and son.
In the school of life we also have a guide showing us the way. The Holy Spirit is the One who shows us what to do, who shows us where to go in the darkness. The last part of verse 27 says it simply and understandably: Christ's anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know …. Softly, every moment of the day the Holy Spirit is guiding us, showing us the way. Go and watch how guide dogs for the blind work. Without jumping around, or barking at everything, the dog walks calmly, waving its tail quietly and shows the blind person the way. When danger threatens the dog turns away and guides the person to safety. Yes, sometimes the dog has to pull quite strongly to get the person away from danger. But this quiet communication cannot take place without a close relationship between owner and dog. As time goes by they get to know one another so well that no words are necessary. In the stillness, in the darkness, the dog guides, the owner listens, and they get safely to where they need to be.
This is precisely what the Holy Spirit does, but unfortunately not much guidance can happen if you do not have a relationship with the Holy Spirit. There can’t be much communication and guidance if you don’t spend time together. Most of the time, the Holy Spirit also leads His blind wordlessly. Yes, sometimes we need a push to get out of the way of oncoming danger, but that is simply for our own survival. The Spirit’s guidance mostly occurs in silence and one can only hear if there is a clear relationship. It’s almost like those small FM radios from yesteryear that had to be tuned precisely to the station before you could make out what they were saying. We need to be tuned into the Holy Spirit’s station just like that to “hear” what He is saying about the direction we need to take at the next crossroads. But it is not that easy. The world out there is buzzing in our ears. Just look at the way it is going at work at the moment. It’s a madhouse! We run around and kick up a row and as a result the noise makes us deaf to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes we are just stupid, because God has given us such an awesome gift, such a Guide who walks with us 24/7, right here beside us, but again and again we permit the world’s noise to drown out the station. Remind yourself of John’s words: 27 Christ's anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught. Live deeply in Christ.
What noise is there around you?
Do you hear the Guide?
Where and when can you come to a standstill?
Scripture: 1 John 2:24-29
Keep on walking!