Do you have a Bible verse – or verses – you ponder throughout the year? I spent the last couple months of 2016 soaking in 1 John. As I begin 2017, much of John’s letter is guiding how I’m approaching the year. (And that’s a good thing.)
Before diving into the verses themselves, allow me a few sentences to “set the stage” a bit. 1 John doesn’t have a specific audience (like “to the church at Philippi” or “to Timothy, my dear son”). This letter is for all of us who desire to be authentic, faithful followers of Jesus.
John writes to people who live in a society where opinions about what is true – and who is worthy of worship – are varied and abundant. So do we.
He writes to people who want to honor Jesus with their lives, but are bombarded by worldly temptations. So do we.
He writes to people who are surrounded by a message of self-centered living, rather than self-sacrificial giving. So do we.
He writes to people who have the opportunity to change the world by loving others as deeply loved children of God. So do we.
Sure, John wrote 2000 years ago. But this letter is for you, my friend.
Here are five verses…one from each chapter. Read. Ponder. Pray. Live. Repeat.
1 John 1:1
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” NIV
Hearing. Seeing. Looking at. Touching. This is what John and his friends did. Am I? Are you?
To hear, see, look at and touch we have to be present. Fully present. We have to pay attention and notice. A year from now, if you and I wrote a letter about 2017, could we start it with the words John used to start his letter? I sure hope so!
1 John 2:1-2
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” NIV
There is an entire sermon – or maybe even a sermon series – in these two verses. The part God has been reminding me of is who He is and how that determines who we are.
He is the sacrifice that atones. His atoning sacrifice means that our sin no longer defines us.
I am not identified by the sin I struggle with. You are not defined by the sin you struggle with.
And you know that guy down the street or the gal at work that drives you crazy? Their sin isn’t who they are either. His sacrifice is for the whole world. That means them too. It also means you and I have the responsibility – and the joy! – of reminding them of who Jesus is and who they are as a result.
1 John 3:1
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” NIV
Another “identity message.” I am a child of God. You are a child of God. We are in the family. We are cherished, loved, fought for, and wanted.
(You might want to stop reading and simply soak in this one for a while.)
1 John 4:10-12
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” NIV
You’ve heard the phrases. “Blessed to be a blessing.” “Loved so we might love.” “Served so we might serve.”
These verses make it clear that as we respond to God’s love by loving, we actually become the vessels through which God shows Himself – and His complete love – to someone who might not see Him any other way.
“Shown God, that He might show Himself through us.”
1 John 5:21
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” NIV
This always seemed like a weird ending to this letter. So abrupt. So focused on the negative. So not about, well, love. (A word that shows up in 26 of the 105 verses in this letter.)
Then I looked in the mirror. I saw someone who is so easily drawn to an idol – an image, a lesser-god, a replacement.
Now I believe this is one of the most loving endings John could have used. Here is how I hear it now…
My dear child. Don’t settle. You know the One who tells the truth. You know the One who IS the Truth. Don’t be distracted. Don’t turn away. Look straight at Him. He’s right there. And He’s so much better than the no-god piece of wood you are tempted to hold instead. Hold Him. Today. Always.
As I said at the beginning of this post…Read. Ponder. Pray. Live. Repeat.