Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Aslan is on the move!

                                                           Aslan is on the move!

Gen. 1:1    "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good…"

In the beginning, God.  He is the Beginning and the End.  In the beginning, God created.  He is the Creator of life.  He is the Author of life.  And He is the Author of your story.  God is giving you and me and each one of us a story, a story which unfolds one page at a time, just like all stories.  There are no cliff notes.  There’s no fast forward button, or skip.  We can’t tivo this.  No, this is the ultimate reality show, and not only are you and I in it, we have a starring role!  We are starring in our own reality show, produced by the consummate Executive Producer Himself.  And actually we’re just the co-stars - the real star is Jesus.  He’s like Tom Cruise (hope that’s not too blasphemous) - He’s both producing and starring in this reality adventure/docudrama.  This is your life.  And you know who’s the audience, right?  Jesus is in the audience, yep - front and center!  But guess who else is watching?  Your neighbors.  Those around you.  Your family.  Your friends.  Your classmates and co-workers.  The barista at Starbucks.  Everyone you meet.  The angels in heaven.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses in fact…!  (Heb 12.1)

But sometimes the plot thickens, doesn’t it?  Or sometimes, it just doesn’t seem like anything is happening at all, doesn’t it?  It feels like things seem formless and void.  Emptiness.  A wasteland.  The kind of chaos you get when no one is in charge.  Or worse, something bad is happening, and darkness is over the surface of our deep.  God, what are You up to?  What are You doing?  Are You still in charge?  We’re in the middle of one of those plot twists.  Or we’re still stuck in the aftermath of a previous plot twist, and we just can’t seem to shake it.  We can’t get past it.  There’s this cloud of darkness hanging over us.  Something from our past.  Or something we’re facing right now, today.  It might be something looming on the horizon.  And sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, nothing is changing.  Nothing is getting any better.  Things are in fact getting worse.

But guess what - in the middle of the dark times, when things just seem so formless and void, the Spirit of God is moving.  The Spirit of God is moving.  Rest assured.  The word in the Hebrew implies that He was hovering, like an eagle which is concerned for the well-being of its young.  And that is exactly what the Lord does with us.  His Spirit is hovering over you and me.  He is moving, hovering over the surface of our waters.  He is on the move.

“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps he has already landed,” [said Beaver]. 

    And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different.... At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”

There had been a long season of winter.  Dark times.  Hard times.  And the people (animals) were waiting for something to happen.  But is it not fair to ask whether or not Aslan was always moving?  Is He not always up to something?  Or, should we use the name by which He is known in our world?  Jesus - God saves.  Emmanuel - God with us.  He is always with us.  He will never leave or forsake us.  Israel experienced something very similar - they waited for centuries for the Promised Messiah.  They waited hundreds of years with not even a peep from the Lord, waiting while the Gentiles ruled over them and subjected them to all kinds of subjegation.  Is He not always doing something, even in the dark times?  The periods of silence?  

Gal. 4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law…

But what was God doing up until that so-called "fullness of time"?  From the very beginning?  Was He not always in charge, and “filling up” the time?  The Spirit of God was moving, He was hovering… The Spirit of God, this One Who Jesus sent to be our Helper, to be God with us - and God IN us!  God is on the move, even when things look formless and void, when it doesn’t look like anything is happening, when we can’t see a thing in front of us cuz darkness is over the surface of our deep.  The Spirit of God, the Author of our salvation, is on the move.

We all have dark times.  Tough times.  Hard times are sure to come, Jesus said.  So if you haven’t had any yet, you will.  If you’re not facing any plot twists yet - you will be.  You will be.

I faced a few plot twists in my life.  I do feel like I’ve so far somehow avoided some of the darker more desperate plot twists which so many face.  My parents divorced when I was in 8th grade.  One of my darkest seasons was my third year in ministry.  I had come to Christ while in college, and had seen tremendous fruit in ministry.  I had received a ministry assignment to Princeton University where the Lord raised up a dozen disciples into whom I was pouring my life, and now here not one of them remained.  They had all disinvolved.  This was not any kind of spiritual multiplication I had ever seen - it was spiritual subtraction!  And then in the midst of these struggles in ministry, my girlfriend broke up with me.  Dropped me like a cold french fry.  Rejection.  Failure.  But you may have experienced something far worse…

Gen. 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

Little Joe.  He was intimately acquainted with dark times.  With rejection - and betrayal.  With delayed justice.  With hope deferred and shattered dreams.  You remember the story, right?  He was the favored son of Israel, patriarch of God’s chosen people, and all his brothers were jealous.  His dad gave him the fancy coat and all his brothers were jealous.  Joseph had dreams about his brothers bowing down to him, and all his brothers were jealous.  His family hated him.  One day they turned on him, threw him in a well, and trafficked him to some traders who took him far from home and sold him as a slave to a wealthy Egyptian.  The ultimate injustice.  There he worked hard and did what was right but eventually was falsely accused of wrongdoing by the boss’s wife and thrown into prison.  There he worked hard and did what was right but continued to languish in that place of darkness.  Finally he was released - after who knows how long - and was exalted to the right hand of the king of Egypt himself.  There God used him to not only prepare an entire nation to survive a coming famine, but he wound up being able to help and ultimately preserve his long-lost family as well.  Including his betraying brothers!

And there in Egypt, after their father passed away, his brothers are afraid that the chickens are going to come home to roost.  That their now-powerful brother is going to finally have his revenge, that he is going to exact his pound of flesh and make up for what they did to him, those many years ago.  And yet here he is with a heart full of grace and forgiveness.  He is at peace in the present because he was at peace with his past.  He had perspective on all those dark times, all that he endured because of what his brothers did to him.  He understood two things, two fundamental truths which will rock your world.  Actually, what they will do is bring peace.  They will calm it right down.

1) God meant it
… The word means to devise, or plan something.  Like an engineer.  God has a plan.  He always has a plan.  Always has, always will.  We touched on this last week.  He is the Author - and He always knows what He’s doing.  He is always on the move.  He’s never stuck, or at a loss for what to write next.  He’s never grasping for ideas on what the next chapter in your story should be, making things up as He goes.  No, no - He has a plan.

Psa. 33:11  The counsel of the LORD stands forever, 

The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Prov. 16:9  The mind of man plans his way, 

But the LORD directs his steps.

Is. 25:1    O LORD, You are my God; 

I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; 

For You have worked wonders, 

Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.

Jer. 29:11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’

2) God meant it - for good.  He has a good plan - because He is good.  He knows exactly what He is doing - just like Ferris Bueller (infinitely moreso!) - except instead of maybe being up to no good He is in fact up to all good.  It’s all good with God.  He has good plans.  We always get it good, because He is oh so good.  This is God’s way of doing things.

Look at how He worked from the beginning.  God made something, and He saw that it was good.  He made something else, and saw that it was good.  He did something else, and saw that it was good.  He blessed His creatures - literally showered His goodness on them - and finally at the end of the sixth day, He stepped back and admired all that He had made.  Cuz it was amazing.

31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

"Very good."  That may be the understatement of all time, The Hebrew word there is a superlative.  Muchness.  To the n-th degree.  Totally good.  Exceedingly good.  Best.  Ever.  And that’s how He rolls, our exceedingly good God.  He good.  And He always means it, plans it for good. (Rom 8.28)  He is always hovering, always working out an exceedingly good plan.  Even when things are formless or dark as night.

These two truths go together like peanut butter and jelly.  God meant it, and He meant it for good.  Inseparable, hand in hand.  Like pancakes and syrup. (Unless you’re like Buddy the Elf - apparently for elves syrup is its own food group).

Even tho Joseph's brothers were out to get him, even tho they meant it for evil, the goodness of God’s good plan was greater still.  Even in the midst and in the aftermath of his dark sea of darkness, Joseph knew that God was with him, and that His God was consummately in control, breathtakingly good.  He means it for good.  That’s what He says about you and me:

Ps 139:14-16  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 

Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.

  My frame was not hidden from You, 

When I was made in secret, 

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

  Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; 

And in Your book were all written 

The days that were ordained for me, 

When as yet there was not one of them.

In other words, you - and me - we’re wonderful.  I am wonderful.  Say it.  God has planned it - all of it - for good.

We could ask - as many do - why?  Why these plot twists?  Why does God allow them to happen?  Why all this brokenness?  Why does God allow it to exist, to continue?  And more specifically, why did God allow that to happen to me?  If I am the apple of His eye - which He says I am - why didn’t He keep that from happening?  He is almighty God, and nothing is too difficult for Him.  He could have prevented it.  So why didn’t He?  Why did God allow that to happen to me?  It is the age old problem of evil.  If God is really good, then why is there so much bad?  Why did that bad thing happen?  Maybe He’s not in control?  Maybe He’s really not all powerful?  Or maybe He doesn’t care?  Maybe He is like that blind watchmaker - He doesn’t see, and He’s not involved after all?  Maybe He doesn’t care?  Cuz if He really cared, He wouldn’t let this happen?  He would intervene, and head it off at the pass.  See, all of these questions are legit, cuz we are hardwired best-ever, for goodness which never ends.  We know that we know that we know in our heart of hearts that the world is supposed to be good.  And Justice is supposed to rain down and reign on the earth.  Good things are supposed to happen - not bad things.  Not things which cause crying or pain or sickness or death.  These are the unwelcome invaders.  The barbaric barbarians which twist the plots of our lives into all kinds of brokenness.  One thing we do know is that the entire system has been hacked.  This exceedingly good creation was broken when sin entered the world, when the first man and woman chose to swap out their Maker and put something else in His rightful place.  And brokenness has been the default template ever since.  It’s the malicious malware which has infected the entire operating system,  Sometimes we don’t have a specific answer to the question of why, why did God let this happen?  All we have to hold on to is that He has a plan, and that He means it for good, somehow, some way.  And this is part of the journey of faith, which is the assurance of things unseen (Heb 11.1).  We don’t always see the good plan God is working out.  Not right away.  It may take some time.  They say time heals - sometimes that just means you are far enough removed from the twisty wound that you are able to gain some perspective on it.  But know this - His plans are never, ever frustrated.  What He means to do, what He means for good, will come to pass.  His “mean to” is not like our “mean to”.  “I didn’t mean to do it”, we say.  We all the time are doing things which we didn’t mean to do.  Or I meant to do it, but didn’t do it.  Not so with the Lord.

Is. 14:27 “For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”

So where is He in the midst of the formless and dark sea of darkness?  He is on the move.  He is moving over the waters of the deep.  His plans are never frustrated.  What He means for good, will be good.  With Him, we always get it good.

1Th. 5:24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

So our response?  Faith.  Trusting the One Who is fully and forever trustworthy.  Trust, even when we don’t see the good in it (not yet at least).  Faith is the assurance of things NOT seen.   God, I will trust You.  I will trust that You are who You say You are, that You are on the move.  And I will thank You (1Th 5.18).  And I will worship You.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Beginning and the End

Gen. 1:1    "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good..."

In the beginning, God... That's all we need to know, really.  

First is a thing. I was here first.  We were here first. (We know that first is a thing because we know how we feel about line jumping...)(Sooners know about this...!)  And when it comes to everything, God was here first.  In other words, He gets dibs.

In the beginning, God... Created... Not only was He here first, He made it all.  Everything.  It's all His.  I was here first, and this is My stuff.

Deut. 10:14 “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.

1Chr. 29:11 “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all."

In the beginning, God created.  He created it all. Everything. The heavens and the earth, and everything that is in them. It's all His - He not only owns it, He made it.

He is the Creator, the uncaused First Cause.  Every thing we see, every action, is caused by something else, some prior cause, causes caused by other causes going back all the way to the very beginning.  To the first cause, caused by this very One Who was there in the beginning, Who cranked it all up (and Who - unlike the watchmaker who winds up their watch and then just sits there watching it, letting it go with no further hands-on involvement - continues to actively and sovereignly superintend all subsequent causes towards His desired end/ends).  

-But He was also there before the beginning.  Scripture and the universe reveal to us a God Who is eternal and uncaused, infinite in His being and His perfections, all-knowing and all-powerful.  Incomparable.  Transcendent.  The Ultimate.  The great I AM.  The God Who always is, Who always was, and Who always will be.  The Beginning and the End. 

Is 41:4, "Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning?

I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am He."

So why did He do all this? Why this Beginning? What is the End of this Beginning, in other words?

Neh. 9:6 “You alone are the LORD. 

You have made the heavens, 

The heaven of heavens with all their host, 

The earth and all that is on it, 

The seas and all that is in them. 

You give life to all of them 

And the heavenly host bows down before You."

-Think about this. God created - and He saw.  And He saw that it was good.  He created - out of nothing - things which could be seen (5 senses), AND admired.  Just as He is to be admired for Who He is, not just what He does. Admired and praised and honored not only because of The breathtaking goodness He causes, but for His breathtaking goodness.  Because He is the uncaused Cause, the great I AM, the Almighty God and King of the universe. 

Is. 42:8 "I am the LORD; that is My name; My glory I give to no other, nor My praise to carved idols."

-And He made us in His image. We are little creators... We create things - to be admired...

And because He made it all He has a doubly vested interest in it. He cares about it. A lot. All of it. He cares about you. A lot. He has a doubly vested interest in you.  You are not simply some random cosmic accident, some by-product of billions of years of hopeful mutations.  He formed you in your mother's womb, fearfully and wonderfully fashioned your heart and your substance.  Before He even formed you He knew you, and loved you, with an everlasting love.  He has always loved you, always been there for you, always will, all the days of your life.  He designed you, every aspect of who you are and who you will be.  He knows every last hair on your head.  And He has laid out the days of your life, and laid on you a glorious purpose. To know and experience and revel in His goodness in such a way and to such an extent, to be so filled up with Him that it spills out and over to your neighbors and to the nations. And to that end He has crafted and gifted you with unique passions and abilities to somehow contribute to the spread of this knowledge and celebration of His goodness, each and every day.  Think about this.  Are we not like Him as well in this respect? Are we not wired to be admired for who we are? Special. And that we are - the apple of His eye...!

-In the beginning, God.  He started it all.  And thus we start with Him, because He is the End of all we do.  Every day. Everything we do. All things are for Him. They are all from Him, and through Him. He must have first place in everything. They all - everything - is His. It all belongs to Him.  Because He made it. We all belong to Him.  So let's make sure we have this straight. He comes first. He is the beginning - and the end - of all we do.  As individuals.  As families.  And as a church family.  In the beginning God, because, in the end God.  He is the beginning and the end.  The Alpha and the Omega.  The reason He cranked it all up in the first place was for the increase of the display and the celebration of His glory.  The admiration of His breathtaking goodness and manifold perfections.  That He would be the beginning and the end of all we do.  The great all-encompassing what-for.  First place.  Colossians 1.18 - "...so that He will come to have first place in everything...". First place in our hearts.  First place in our church.  First place in the universe.  Because, let us make no mistake, in the end, every knee WILL bow.  Every tongue WILL confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.  To the glory of God the Father. First place.

-Thus each one of us, we have our own beginning, as well as the possibility of a REbeginning. That place and time where we turn back in our hearts to our Creator, thru Jesus. Because... We all choose to go our own way and do our own thing and to put God in second place - or third. Or perhaps not at all. The Bible calls this sin, and the penalty for this wayward disobedience is death. Eternal separation from the God Who made us and so loves us. He loved us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins, to provide a gift of forgiveness for all the ways we fall short of honoring Him as God. This was the great RE-beginning.  All of created history, from that very first beginning, was marching steadily and inexorably towards the Cross.  Towards that time when God would begin to REstore and REbuild that which was broken through the fall.  To REvive hearts which had gone astray from Him. To make possible for each one of us the Great REbirth.  Each one of us must come to this place where we begin with Jesus, where we begin to follow Him, where we begin to believe not just facts about Him but where we begin to believe IN Him, where we begin to trust that His death is the only sufficient payment for our sins. And the very moment you put your trust in Jesus, He comes into your heart and you begin a new life, life forever. 

Each day then becomes a new beginning, in fact - not starting over with Jesus but rather another day of learning what it means to put God in first place.  I put Him in first place yesterday? Wonderful! Today is a new day. I must begin again to put The Lord first today, no matter what I did yesterday. Maybe I did not put Him first yesterday? No matter - today is still a new day. It can be a new beginning of greater devotion to the Lord.  

This is the journey of faith, the pilgrimage of The People of God, if you will.  Learning to put God first in everything. This is the lesson which the Lord sought to teach and reinforce for Israel from the very beginning. Put Me first. Ex 22:29. Prov 3:9.

And if we're honest, it can be a struggle, can it not? So many competing affections, lesser loves, things to which we give our heart and our time and our treasure. We settle for making mud pies in the slum, so much cotton candy. We are like the prodigal, wandering away from home and trying to fill the hole in our hearts with something - anything other than the Father Who so loves us and Who is a party waiting to happen. He is watching and waiting for us each and every day, waiting for us to ... wait for Him (Is 40, whole chapter, esp v 31).

Ex. 20:2   “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods BEFORE Me."

Psa. 86:9  "All nations whom You have made shall come and worship BEFORE You, O Lord, And they shall glorify Your name."

There is no one greater, none higher, none better.  In the beginning, God.  In all our beginnings, God.  So that in the end He might come to have first place in everything.  In our affections.  In our relationships.  In our work and our studies and our recreation and in all our pursuits.  The Beginning and the End of all things. Beginning with me.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

1John 5:14-21 - “Know Means Yes”

Thomas Jefferson was the driving force behind establishing the University of Virginia.  He wrote this: 

[T]his last establishment [a state university] will probably be within a mile of Charlottesville, and four from Monticello, if the system should be adopted at all by our legislature who meet within a week from this time. My hopes however are kept in check by the ordinary character of our state legislatures, the members of which do not generally possess information enough to perceive the important truths, that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and that knowledge is happiness.

Knowledge is power.  Attributed to Francis Bacon.  Greeks have two words for knowledge.  One is experiential, day-to-day - usually of a person.  The other expresses absolute, immediate knowledge of some truth, the fact about something, knowledge which you gain in the past and which has ongoing results in the present.  Of the latter, Jesus said, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  Knowledge is power.  The power to be free.  Confident.  Assured.  The power to do something, it unlocks the yes - yes, you can do something.  Often it is what you know.  Sometimes it is WHO you know.  John uses this word know more frequently than any other NT writer.  And he closes out this writing with a flurry of knows:

1John 5:13   These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 AND this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.  

16   If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

18  We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.  21  Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

A few Know’s to close out this letter, and Know means YES!

We know that we have eternal life, John says.  Eternal life = Knowing the One True God, and Jesus Christ Whom He sent. (John 17.3)

So here we have, Know God means YES, eternal life.  We have it.  100%.  We die tonite, we are going to heaven!

Know God AND what He wants

    • So that we may know Him.  Verse 20 - so that we may know Him.  It is a relationship, a personal relationship.  It’s not that I know Who He is - I know Him!  Even the evil one knows WHO He is.  But I KNOW Him.  He knows my name!  And He calls me his own!  So I can relate to Him, and talk to Him, anytime I want.  And for our Father, the more the better!  We can talk to Him.  We can ask Him for things!  And John here gives us the secret to answered prayer…
    • So he says, if we ask anything according to what God wants, we get a yes answer.  Know means yes.  Know what He wants, and ask, and you get yes.  But the key is knowing what He wants.  It is that Greek word thelema, which is usually translated “will” when applied to God but it is the word for desire.  Wants.  Knowing God's thelema, what He wants.  So for us it’s about not about pursuing facts about the Lord, nor pursuing His gifts or what He can do for me, but pursuing His heart… I’m always glad to give good gifts to my kids, but it means so much more when they come to me not for what they can get from me but simply to be with me, to enjoy me.  You know, when we’re little, “Daddy’s home!” can elicit a pretty awesome response.  But then we grow up and we find other things to occupy our time and our thoughts.  We maybe begin to take dad for granted a little.  Oh, that’s just dad.  The luster wears off.  The shine is gone - except maybe on his receding hairline… :)  Surely the opposite should take place in our relationship with our heavenly Father.  Pursuing His heart and being increasingly thrilled with Him, thrilled with the idea of spending time with Him, filled with longing for His courts and being occupied with what He wants.  Obsessed.  Increasingly so.  Living into the reality that He is better.  Simply better.  So much better.  There’s no better place for us to be than to be smack dab in the middle of what He wants.  And it starts with knowing what He wants.
      • Jesus in the garden.  He said, Father, not what I want, but what You want.  Prayer is often the means by which we discover more fully just what God does want.  Prayer in its very essence is a seeking and a searching out and a communion with the Almighty.  With our God and Maker and Savior.  We can definitely learn what He wants by spending time with Him.  Studying His Word.  Time in prayer.  Spending time with others who know Him.  The operative word here is time.  There are no shortcuts to knowing a person’s heart, including the heart of God.
      • Actually there maybe could be one short cut:

Colossians 1:9   For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 

    • Knowing what God wants, that impacts our prayer life, doesn't it?  Confidence, boldness - we know what to ask!
    • Certainty in our relationship with God also breeds boldness.  Remember?  Confidence/boldness in judgment (like the happy dog!).  Confidence in His presence.  But this is not merely confidence THAT we have a relationship with God.  It is confidence and boldness IN that relationship - it's secure, on good footing.  Confidence to boldly approach His throne of grace.  Boldness is for speaking - that word means to utter beside.  I sidle right up to my heavenly Dad knowing that I have His ear and that He wants me to come to Him with my needs and requests and even my wants.  Think about it - what is going to happen when one of my kids who I adore crawls up into my lap and asks me for the very thing I want for them?

Ephesians 5:17 …do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

    • What John is referring to here is that flowing together of what I want with what God wants.  And knowing what He wants allows us to ask accordingly.  When we ask Him for something which we know He wants, we can be sure that He both hears us and gives us what we’ve asked from Him. That's what John is saying in vv 14-15.
    • I do think what John is emphasizing here, particularly on the heels of v 13, is the certainty of relationship.  Having a relationship with God through Christ, being connected to Him - this opens up the possibility for conversation as well as for answered prayer.  In the Greek verse 13 and 14 are connected by the word, and.  The two thoughts are connected, they go hand in hand.  Know Me, including My heart/what I want, AND ask.  Know you have eternal life AND whatever you ask.  It's prayer which is limitless in its invitation.  Whatever you ask.  Ask Me anything.  Ask and you will receive.  Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened.  You do not have because you do not ask.  A limitless invitation - because you know Him (and hopefully are getting to know what He wants).
    • Speaking of a limitless invitation - there's a standing invitation to join the church family for Sunday morning prayer.  Midweek evening prayer.  And the prayer room…
    • So we have, Know means yes.  Know (and asking for) what He wants means YES, answer to prayer.

•Know who we are

    • Born of Him, John says.  Children of God.  Born of Him.  Born unto life eternal.  We are His children.  We are in.  We are in Him, in Him Who is True, in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is eternal life.  We know that we have it - assurance, confidence, boldness even.
      • In this sense, Know(ing) that we are His child means, YES, we can approach Him. Know means yes. We are a child of the King, and He loves us.  It is not like kings of old, where you had to tiptoe around and watch your every facial expression and even if you were the queen you had to wait to be summoned.  That was, no, no, no.  We can go straight up to Him, straight up to His throne of grace.  He is Abba Father.  Daddy. Yes, yes, yes.
    • Saints.  Because we are born of Him, we are also saints, not sinners.  No one born of God, no child of His sins.  God does not make sinners - He makes saints.  Holy ones.  Ones like Jesus, always doing the things which are pleasing to the Father.  Because of Jesus, when we put our faith in Him, we are declared righteous.  Know God means YES, we are righteous.  Yes, in His eyes we’ve done everything right.  Sins are gone as far as the east is from the west.  Yes, we are completely forgiven.  And yes, we are free from the guilt of sin and the power of sin and we are free to live as completely new creations.  Yes, I can rest in Jesus.  Know Him, and YES rest.
      • The verb for sin here is present tense, it refers to an ongoing action, to go on sinning.  Yes, we mess up, but God’s true children do not go on sinning, continuing in it, wallowing in it.  Yes, we do struggle with it, but we struggle and strive against it.

-”If any should see his brother sinning sin not toward death, he will ask and He will give to him life, to the [ones] sinning not toward death.  There is sin toward death.  Not about that one I am saying in order that he should ask.”

  • Who is the brother referred to here?  
    • A saved believer possessing forgiveness and eternal life?
    • A member of our assembly who has not yet fully trusted in Christ?
    • A "brotherhood-of-man"/unbelieving neighbor?
  • What is the sin unto death? The mortal sin?  The unpardonable sin?
    • Lying to the Spirit (a la Ananias and Sapphira) - physical death
    • Resisting the Holy Spirit - eternal death
  • What is the life God will give here?
    • experiential assurance of life and forgiveness for the believer
    • Eternal life to the unbeliever

-Not surprisingly, there are many suggestions as to what might be this “sin-toward-death”.  So-called mortal sin.  There is even an ancient (albeit non-Scriptural) list of seven of them - the “seven deadly sins”: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.  All of these happen to be forgivable, and none would appear to result in direct loss of life (note - forgivable by no means implies permissible).  Some suggest John has in mind sin against the Holy Spirit (i.e. the unpardonable sin referred to in Mk 3.29, Mt 12.31-32)(this sin is typically assigned to and reserved for unbelievers, who are resisting the convicting activity of God’s Spirit in the soul, and who ultimately in rejecting the truth about God will keep Him and His gift of eternal life thru Jesus at arm’s distance all the way to the grave and into eternity - the one thing which God can’t forgive)(adopting this view would then require one to make the “brother” mentioned here to be an unbeliever - which is not at all how John uses the term in the rest of the letter).  Or perhaps it is some great and enormous sin (such as murder or idolatry), a sin which which was punishable by death in the law of Moses.  Possibly some spiritual sin which brought about the untimely death of the offender (as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira in Act 5.1-10 and the abuse of the Lord’s Supper in 1Cor 11.30), or perhaps some capital crime committed against the state for which there was no hope of pardon.

-Here’s truth - ALL sin leads toward eternal death - if unforgiven (Rom 6.23).  John here refers to “sin not toward death”, so he can’t be talking about eternal death.

-Let’s revisit this question - if the sin in mind is NOT toward death, why would the offender need prayer for life?  Seems like the one sinning toward death is the one who stands in need of life, and of prayer toward that end.  And why would John say we don’t need to pray for that someone?  For anyone?

-One easy way out is to allow that John actually IS referring to a brotherhood-of-man brother, one who doesn’t have spiritual life, one who still has the possibility of being forgiven and receiving eternal life.  Such a "brother", one who ostensibly is not sinning (blaspheming/resisting) against the Holy Spirit, is someone for whom we can indeed intercede.  We can pray for them and ask God to open their hearts to repent and believe in Jesus so that they can indeed be forgiven and receive eternal life.  The language vis a vis praying here is future indicative, by the way.  Future fact.  Bankable promise from God.  John says “he WILL ask” and “He WILL give” life.  Now the text does not say “God will give”, but of course we understand that only God can give life.  And so there is potentially a strengthened admonition here to pray for unbelievers, tied to an amazing promise.  Problem is, it requires a different use of brother.  And it requires us to say that all of this sin short of Holy Spirit blasphemy is not unto death, which it technically is.

-One thing we do have here is an immediate application of the truth about asking, that God hears us when we ask according to what He wants.  And He clearly wants us to be praying for people who are struggling with sin and disobedience and unbelief.

-What we may have here is the corporate side of 1Jn 1.9.  There John tells the reader that “if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.  He uses the same phrase here in v. 17.  All unrighteousness is sin”.  We understand that a believing brother doesn’t technically NEED to be forgiven or cleansed per se (not in a legal/positional sense before God at least).  Nor does he NEED life (eternal), inasmuch as the believer already has it.  So what John could be talking about here is an experiential assurance of life and forgiveness for a truly saved brother.  And the sin towards a physical death would be some egregious lying to the Holy Spirit (a la Ananias and Sapphira).  OR, we could be looking at the playing out of a process of entering into eternal life for someone who is associating themselves with the family of God.  They are aligning themselves with God’s children - but the process of salvation is playing out in their life.  They are in our assembly, and are showing signs of following Jesus, which means we love them and lay our life down for them, but there is this possibility that their as-yet-not-fully-formed faith could fizzle before the finish (which could be true for any one of us - Hebrews 3.12 warns us to be careful that we don’t find ourselves with what is an unbelieving heart).  In which case it would have been faulty from the first.  But so we can be praying for "members" of our assembly, knowing that just because they assemble with us that they may not have truly trusted in Christ yet, knowing that all unrighteousness is sin and that all of it can be forgiven (unless what they are doing ultimately is resisting the Holy Spirit, i.e. sin unto death)(and note that John doesn’t say NOT to pray for those).  We can pray for this person with the utmost confidence that God wants them to repent and enter in to eternal life.  In this latter instance, we put “brother” in quotes.  In the case of the former, we put “give life” in quotes, since a truly saved brother while he may struggle with sin for a season already has life and forgiveness - he just needs to experience that reality in a deeper way.  So which do you think it is - experiential assurance of life and forgiveness for a truly saved brother, or actual repentance for an unsaved attender of our assembly?

We know Whose we are

    • The wonderful promise attached to the truth of the divine birth is that of divine protection.  We are born of God, and bought with the price of the priceless blood of His Son.  We belong to Him.  We are His.  We are His precious possession.  And so He keeps us.  He guards us.  We are His.
    • And the evil one can’t touch this… Not ever.  He is called the prince of the power of the air.  The commander of the powers of the unseen world.  The ruler of this world.  The whole world lies in his power and is walking in his path - but he can’t touch us.  Even tho we are living in this world, he can’t touch us.  Nope.  He can’t hit, he can’t hit, suh-wing batter.  He can try to tempt and deceive and discourage us, but he can’t touch us.  Truth be told he would probably like to kill us.  He comes to do what?  Steal, kill and destroy.  But he can’t touch us.
    • In Christ we are uber-victorious!
    • We are of God vs the whole world lying down in the evil one
      • Know God, and YES, we have victory!  Victory over the world, victory over the evil one.  There is no power which can ever separate us from the love of Christ.  God is for us - who can be against us?!?  No one.  Nobody.

We know Whose we are.  We know who we are.  And...

WE know Him Whose we are

    • Again, this is not about dry, detached knowledge.  This is about intimate friendship - and identity.

We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding in order that we may be knowing the (One Who is) True.  This is a great prayer - Lord, give them understanding so that they may be knowing the True, knowing You, the one True God.

Know the True.  In order that we me be knowing the True.  The True God.

Hear O Israel.  People of God, listen to me.  The Lord, the Great I AM, He is God.  He alone is God.  The one God.  The one TRUE God.  He alone.  He is… The True.  Knowing Him means saying yes to the truth that He alone is God.  Know means yes.

Which ties to the very last thing John writes - guard yourselves from the idols.  In other words - from The False, from all those false gods, those pretenders.  Guard yourselves, keep yourselves away from them.  It is in the aorist tense.  You’d think it would be in the present tense - keep on guarding yourselves and keeping yourselves from idols.  But John uses the aorist here.  It is a dot action instead of a line.  Simple action.  Just do it.  As in once and for all.  Resolve to make nothing else ultimate, to give nothing else first place in your heart or life or affections.   Not a career.  Not a resume.  Not a house.  Not a team.  Not a car.  Not a show.  Not some destination.  Not a person - not my spouse (present or future), not a child, not a parent.  Not any created thing.  To what do we give our hearts, our time, our treasure?  We put God first.  Stiffarm the False and embrace the True.  We say yes to He Who is True and make Him the ultimate destination of our hearts.  Know the True.  Know means yes.

John calls us little children one last time.  For the SEVENTH time.  He obviously cares - a lot.  Our fatherly bestest big brother.  John just told us that Jesus is guarding us, keeping us from the evil one.  Why on earth then does John close by telling US to guard ourselves?  I thought Jesus was doing it.  The truth is, nothing can touch us from without.  While the entire world is lying down in the evil one, lying in His power, he has no power over us.  He can’t touch us.  He can’t touch this.  Can’t touch this.  No, John cares enough here in closing, to remind us that the battle, the struggle for us now as children of the True is on the INSIDE.  What are you and I putting/going to put in God’s place that is false?  Do you and I know Him Who is True?  Are we getting to know Him, knowing what He wants, how awesome He is?  Knowing how great His love and protection and power is for us, that we are His children and that nothing can ever separate us from Him?  Know means yes.  May the Lord give us the grace to say yes to Him, every day, throughout the day...