What Does It Mean To Lay Down Your Life for Your Brother? 1 John 3:16-18

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-18

When we hear Jesus laid down his life for us, usually the first thing that comes to mind is his crucifixion. Jesus died for us on the cross…that is what laying down his life looks like. I think John is letting us in on a little more to the story than just the crucifixion. Notice what he says next, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

John tells us that, like Jesus, we ought to lay down our lives for others. No surprise there, but notice the example he gives of what this looks like. He doesn’t tell of a Christian dying for another Christian. John’s illustration of how to lay down your life for others is to help someone in need. The truth of the matter is, few of us will ever die for another person, while all of us have the opportunity to put others first on a daily basis.

That brings us back to Jesus. When did Jesus lay down his life? It started well before the cross. It started when he invited a tax collector to follow him, even though he knew people wouldn’t like it. It started when he got an adulterous woman out of being stoned, even though he knew it would cost him. It started when he raised Lazarus from the dead and the plots to kill him started to swirl. It started back when he told them he would tear down the temple and raise it up again in three days but they didn’t understand him and were angry with him for saying such things.

The point is, Jesus laid down his life all along the way. The ultimate demonstration was in the cross but the reality is, it started way before that. The cross was the natural progression of a life that was already given up for others. So when we are called to lay down our lives for others, don’t get all focused on dying for someone else and never put this into practice for lack of opportunity. Realize that laying down yourself for others is about how you value people and how you see yourself.

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I Can Do It Myself

DSC_0611One of Elijah’s favorite lines is, “I can do it by me-self”. It might be a glass of milk that he normally drinks without a problem but says that phrase and then proceeds to spill a bunch down the front of his shirt, pooling up on his shorts. He wants independence but he isn’t ready for it.

When you are totally dependent but act as if you aren’t consequences abound. When you are two years old, consequences include spilled milk, stained shirts, and broken toys. When you are an adult consequences include spilled blood, stains of sin and broken lives. We might think we can do it all by ourselves but the truth of the matter is we must rely on God in everything. We want independence but we weren’t meant to live independently. Like Elijah we aren’t ready for it and the truth is we never will be. Life independent of God is death.

Ten Reflections on the Importance of Scripture

I really do love the Bible. It has meant so much to me in both the peaks and the valleys of life. It is like a long standing relationship that just gets better and better with age. I have had the times when the Bible fell open to just the right text at just the right time and felt God was telling me something. When my grandmother was dying of cancer and in her last days I sat in Bible class that Wednesday night with tears in my eyes. I opened my Bible straight to 2 Cor 1 about the God of all comfort. There has never been a moment in my life where the words felt more like in some small way God had me and countless other people in mind when he inspired the opening words to the second letter to the Corinthians. I have had times when I wrestled and wrestled with a text and couldn’t get much out of it that seemed applicable at all but somehow I knew I was better for the experience of trying to hear what those ancient words had to say to my modern ears.

The Bible has served as a mentor to me. There are the times the Bible has humbled me into recognizing I was wrong or needed corrected. Then there are the times scripture has jumped up right in front of me, come to life, and was responded to with “Aha!” The pieces finally clicked together. They had been there all the time but maybe a new insight, a new piece of information or life experience made an old, much read verse, come to life in a new way. I am sure you know what I am talking about. You have almost certainly been there yourself.

A few reflection on scripture:

  1. The Bible stands there and says what it says and I have to deal with it. If I get my priorities out of whack I can try to manipulate what it says to suit my ears but cherry picking Greek glosses and lexicons or by coming up with some obscure interpretation. But if I am humble enough to let God’s Word change me rather than me change it I will experience something powerful in its study. It is like getting a letter from a friend about a problem. You can’t argue back with a letter. You have to take it all in first and read what is there, even re-read it.
  2. Because the text is living, breathing, and sharp (Heb 4:12, 2 Tim 3:16) and because my life isn’t static, the Bible often encounters me at different times in life in different ways that it ever has before. I certainly read the Gospel of John differently now than when I was 13. Knowing the themes, the signs, the theology, purpose, and where John is taking the reader the text has become so much richer for me than it used to be and things now seem obvious that were buried for the 13 year old version of myself. I love the richness that brings to the text as the words on the page are the same but the conversation changes as our maturity and readiness to hear what it is saying changes.
  3. We are looking back on what many looked forward to and so we take much for granted. 1 Peter 1:12 tells us that the Gospel that has been revealed to us was concealed even from the angels much less those who went before the church and ministry of Christ. So there is much to be appreciated about being the recipients of the complete message of God/Christ through the Gospels and letters of the New Testament but also through the Old Testament (more on that another time). This gives us a privileged perspective of faith resulting in great responsibility. For instance, when Mary and Martha are upset with Jesus for not getting to Bethany to heal Lazarus any faster we know he is going to raise him from the dead. They don’t. That doesn’t mean we don’t have any faith struggles because our picture of God can be more informed than those who just had this piece or that. But it is still a blessing nevertheless!
  4. God knew I was thickheaded enough to give me the Gospel in four formats. I love the differences in perspective of each of the Gospels. God was so wise to preserve that for us! Mark is action packed. Matthew is so detailed in how this story fits the rest of the story. Luke is compassionate. John is intimate…an inner circle view of much of the goings on and explanations of Jesus’ ministry with the sole intention of producing faith in the reader.
  5. Scripture is rich in the variety of genres and approaches it takes to speak to me the words of God – poetry, geneology, narrative, letter, and everything in between.
  6. There is always someone to relate to. Whether I did something good or bad there is always someone to relate to. The Bible isn’t interested in painting the good guys as the good guys. The Bible is interested in pointing imperfect people toward a perfect God. The result is I realize I am in the same boat as everyone from those who barely got it all the way up to the “heroes of the faith.”
  7. Scripture brings me hope no matter how imperfect I find myself to be. Man after God’s own heart and murderer, shepherd of God’s people and murderer, stepped on the waves and denied him three times. Yet all were received back into God’s grace in the end. That gives me hope.
  8. Scripture is effective in leading me toward life and righteousness. Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I can’t think of anything to think about that fits those criteria better than scripture itself. Jesus said his words are spirit and life (John 6:63).
  9. As Donny D says often, you will never do what the Bible says and wake up with regrets wondering why on earth you did something so foolish. It doesn’t get much more practical than that.
  10. The One whose hands knit me in my mother’s womb also produced the words contained in scripture. His words really are life.

What has scripture meant to you whether you have studied it all your life or even just a short amount of time?

Jonah Brings New Meaning to the Term “Entertainment Center”

And we thought we would get hours of entertainment from this thing…

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A Great Weekend

Not much blogging this weekend. We started it out going to Gainesville for a youth group/college reunion of people from the University City Church of Christ. Friday, got in a round of disc golf at Northside Park and shot par. Watched the Gator game in the Swamp…from the bull gator box seats, 50 yard line at the very top of the stadium. All the food you could shake a stick at plus no rain when you’re inside. Went from there to a great reunion and got to reconnect with a ton of friends from some of the most formative years of my life. Great morning at church today with several people coming forward for prayers, a great worship experience and all topped off with our LIFE groups getting kicked off tonight. Snuck in another round of disc golf this afternoon and shot 2 under at the new disc golf park here in St. Petersburg. Glad to be back.

How was your weekend?

Coming up this week on the blog:

  1. Gospel of John
  2. Some thoughts on Small Group ministry
  3. Any thing you would like to hear about or learn more about?

What Are the Results of Sin?

We usually are quick to point out death (Romans 3:23) and that is a correct answer but what is interesting about sin is that this death can be a very slow, gradual process. This is very much in line with the song “Slow fade” by Casting Crowns. Death yes, but in the meantime sin takes its toll.

Scripture is clear that sin has consequences while we are living that don’t have to wait until we die. Here are some that the Bible mentions:

  1. Darkening of our hearts (Roman 1:21)
  2. Being given over to our desires (Romans 1:24)
  3. Corrupted minds (1 Timothy 6:5)
  4. Being unable to understand the truth (1 Corinthians 2:14 & 2 Corinthians 4:4)
  5. Hostility toward God (Romans 8:7-8)
  6. Love of darkness (John 3:19)
  7. Slavery (John 8:34)
  8. Disconnected from community with God and others (2 Corinthians 6:14)
  9. Enemies with God (Romans 5:10)
  10. Death (Romans 6:23)

Sin is the opposite of what God wants for us. Sin doesn’t wait until we die to start killing us. It can be a long and slow process that results in the exact opposite of God’s design. Notice how what God wants for us is the exact opposite of this list:

  1. Give us light (John 8:12)
  2. Freed from earthly desires (1 Peter 4:1-2)
  3. Renewed minds (Romans 12:2)
  4. Convicted of the truth (John 8:32)
  5. Friendship with God (John 15:15)
  6. Love of the light (1 John 1:7)
  7. Freedom (2 Cor 3:17)
  8. Perfect community with God and others (Hebrews 8:10)
  9. Children of God (1 John 3:2)
  10. Life (John 10:10)

In the end, sin is set to undo all that God intended for our lives. It is more than an “oops” or an “uh oh.” It is important that we recognize the serious consequences of sin in our lives and its destructive force and power to murder us slowly. Credit to Stanley Grenz’s, Theology for the Community of God for help with the sin list. It is a great book if you don’t have it I would highly recommend purchasing it.

Living Without Really Living

This weekend I was helping a friend clean out a house that had been used and abused by renters. Windows were smashed, the inside was dirty, piles of clothes were strewn about the backyard. Someone had been living in the shed out back and there were maggots here and there making a stench. What is worse, there were kids toys and clothes in the mix, which made you wonder if kids had lived in the midst of the mess. My friend and I talked about how living in this state wasn’t really living. Yesterday I asked our Sunday school class what would be worse…to pull out of your driveway and get smashed by an 18 wheeler being killed instantly, or to live each and every day without really living?

I wonder how many people have nice tidy homes but on the inside their spiritual house is in the same state of affairs as that rental property we were cleaning up?