I hope you are all well. I have been home for Thanksgiving, family birthdays, and lots of gopa /opa time with grand kids. Life is good! It was great to be in my home church yesterday. Our children interviewed Bonnie and I on experiences in our lives as parents. It was fun.
The book of 1 John is written by the apostle John to the church when he was an older man. There is some controversy as to how old he was, but he was an older man. He was somewhere between 60 and 80 years old when he wrote this letter to his church community – his church family. He was letting them know that the true evidence of Christ in them was the love of Christ through them to one another. There was something supernatural that had happened in their hearts. It wasn’t just a discipline of learning to love one another. John was writing this letter to say that it becomes obvious when Christ works in the heart of believers. It was a testimony of God’s mercy and grace!
I have often thought that it would be great to be the apostle John. He was called the beloved, the one that Jesus loved. He died a natural death. The other apostles were executed in some manner, but John died of natural causes. Sometimes we may think that John had it easier, but that is not true. John was boiled in oil, yet he did not die! When I was a young man in my 20’s I fell asleep on a raft on a lake in the hot sun. I found out that sleeping on a lake on a raft was not good for a person with the light complexion like mine. I ended up with some nerve damage on my arms from the sun burn I received that day. I still itch to this day from exposure to the sun during the summer months. I am now 61 and it is just now getting better. Can you imagine the old man John who was boiled in oil? He likely suffered the consequences of his suffering. We probably would have noticed him when he walked into the room. Being boiled in oil had to have left its tattoo. He no doubt bore the marks of his suffering. It would be clear that he had gone through some things, but his number one message was love. He wasn’t distracted by the things he had gone through. He was attracted to his knowledge of the love of Christ. This was his message to the church and the foundation for addressing them as children, young men, and fathers.
1 John 2: 12 I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.
When I think of cultures in the world I naturally know they consist of children, young adults, and older people. We tend to think that we were at one stage of development, we progress to the next stage of development, and one day we arrive at the fullness of maturity. That is the way it is in human cultures. I want to propose that in the culture of the kingdom of heaven it is different. There is a beginning of little children, but I am also going to propose that being a little child is something we must always be in our hearts. I have been a believer for over 43 years. There is a progression in my maturity, but each stage of progression is also a constant reality in my heart in various measures. At one point, I was a little child and then I got busy growing up. I battled against some things to become a strong man of God. I got to a stage of being a father, but now I have been a father for some time and I am discovering some mysteries of the kingdom of God. Overcoming is not a strength of the flesh. It is a testimony of God in our lives. The only way we can experience that testimony of overcoming, the only way we can experience it and not become hard or fleshly strong, is to stay childlike in our hearts.
The testimony of being children in our hearts is verified in the word of John to little children when he said, I write to you little children because your sins are forgiven. I write to you little children because you have known the Father.
When Jesus comes into our lives the first thing we should know is that our sins are forgiven and we have a Father who loves us. That is the exit from the old kingdom and the entrance to the new. It is a testimony of mercy and it is the only judgment that frees me from the stronghold of the law. My sins are forgiven and I have a Father who loves me! Jesus said that unless each of us lose our life we cannot find it. We must lay it down, so we can pick it up. We lose our lives to save them. We must leave our old life and enter our new life, but then we must learn to live in the testimony of our new life. Many Christians leave their old life, enter their new life, and then they live by the rules of the old life. What were the rules of the old life? The old life was a life administrated by a knowledge of good and a knowledge of evil. The re-occuring theme of the old life is one that recites, I am bad I am trying to be good. It was always about knowing the rules. How do I act? What do I do? People in the world don’t know God, thus they look for the most practical and passionate ways of doing what they want to do. They seek to justify their own way of living. That kind of living ends up being less than life. There is a Scripture that says that everyone sins, falls short of the mark, and fails to live in the glory of God. They fall short of the glory of God. The wage, or consequence, of sin is death. The result of sin is death. The fruit of sin is death. God does not kill sinners. Sin kills sinners. The judge of sin is sin. When we disconnect from our life source we die. The life source does not kill us for being disconnected, we die because we are disconnected. The first thing that God wants us to know and to experience, the constant and increasing thing that God wants us to know and to experience, is a place of connection to Him. I have a Father who loves me and my sins are forgiven.
As I travel the nations and I look at what God is doing in the congregations of His church and I listen to the sound of what the Holy Spirit is saying in the lives of people, I hear a consistent theme. I observe it as I go to different congregations. I hear it as I tune into different ministries via the internet. I hear it in the songs of worship music in the various parts of the world. The fresh, newest sound I hear is one that says, Your sins are forgive, you have a Father who loves you! I hear words that express that this is a time for us to understand the grace of God. You can go on the internet and search out Christian books and find many books on the topic of grace. It is a common word in the move of God’s Spirit. God wants us to know about grace, but the sound that I hear is, You have a Father who loves you and your sins are forgiven. We are no longer slaves to fear, we are children of God. This is all true. He split the sea so I could walk right through it! This is the entrance to grace, but all of that is the sound of mercy! It is the sound of the exit from the old kingdom and the entrance into the new. I love it. It should and will increase. I am coming into my 44th year of knowing Christ and I should know that I am a child of God. There is no more shame! There is no more condemnation! It is wonderful, but it is the sound of mercy that leads us to the power of God’s grace. I will continue next week to address the partnership of mercy and grace in the culture of a community of Christ. Perhaps we are just knocking on the door to understand the testimony of God’s life-transforming grace in our lives. Grace always begins with receiving mercy!
Ted J. Hanson