Saturday, December 6, 2014

"Loving one another in the truth of Jesus Christ …"

Day #344:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 7th

Scripture Reading:  II John …

There is no love like that of those who are united to Christ and to each other.  It is something that is difficult to describe.  Some have wrongly understood that we are commanded to love everyone the same, but while God calls us to "love our enemies," it is certainly a different love than the love we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We "show" love to our enemies and we are concerned for them because we know that unless they repent and believe they will one day face the just judgment of God in an eternity of anguish, being separated from God forever … but it's not like the love we have for one another.  Why?  Because we don't SHARE the love of God or the fellowship of the Spirit.  We don't relate on the same level.  That's just the way it is.  Those who know Christ know what I mean.  You can't get close to people who don't share the Spirit, no matter how hard you try … it's different because there's "something" missing!!

John's second and third letters are brief "notes" to individuals, yet within them lies a message for all who know and love Jesus.  You can hear the loneliness of John as he has survived the persecution of the "60's" (A.D.) and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.  Many, if not all of his brothers, the apostles, have been martyred … and yet, the true Church, the remnant, those who believed in Jesus Christ against all odds, has survived.  "This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4).  John must have felt alone, but he knew he wasn't alone.  So he writes "to the chosen lady and her children" (vs. 1).  We don't know who this was, but it is clear that she was a believer.  John greets her with the words, "whom I love in the truth - and not I only, but also all who know the truth - because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever" (verses 1-2).

When John uses the words, "the truth," he is referring to at least two things:  first, the Gospel, the truth of God's Word, and second, Jesus, Who is Himself "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).  This is where our oneness with our brothers and sisters in Christ is found:  in Jesus and in the truth of His Word.  Jesus IS the truth!  He is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament, the wisdom of God made flesh.  If you remove Jesus from everything else you know all other knowledge is empty and useless.  What good does it do to know anything if you are simply going to live, die and face God's judgment in hell forever?  JESUS changes everything!  The TRUTH changes everything.  That's why Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

Jesus is using a "play on words" because there is a double meaning to "knowing the truth."  Some people have heard about Jesus and may even say they believe in Jesus, but they don't KNOW Him, because they have not truly accepted the truth that He IS the eternal Son of God, that He IS Lord, that He IS worthy of worship, that He IS the only Mediator and Savior of those who KNOW Him, who believe His Words (the truth) and who trust Him ... who find their hope and peace and joy nowhere else but in Jesus.  John continues and says, "Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love" (verse 3).  If you were facing persecution and possibly death for your testimony to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior, how important would these words be to you?!  "Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love."

The rest of this brief letter reveals the connection between truth and love.  John says, "It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us" (verse 4).  Then he goes on to talk about the command to "love one another" (verse 5).  Truth and love always go together.  The love Jesus commands us to have for one another cannot exist without truth ... cannot exist without Jesus.  Too many who claim that they are Christians congregate in churches (appropriately enough called "congregations") no differently than they would in a restaurant or a social club.  In fact, that's what many churches are - social clubs - a place to get together, to get small doses of encouragement or inspiration, to play religion and to do a few good deeds to make people feel good.  The name of Jesus is used as a motivation, but the cross of Jesus is noticeably absent.  Sin is seldom, if ever, confronted; repentance is a word that has been placed on the shelf as old-fashioned and faith is simply a mental assent to a set of beliefs with which even those who don't know Jesus could probably agree.

Many seem to start out well, but like those in Jesus' parable of the sower (Matthew 13), the trials of life, riches, prosperity and trials distract them and pull them away from true love and devotion for and to Jesus, THE Truth.  While deceivers come who talk about Jesus as a good man, a good teacher, a good example, but deny that He is God in the flesh, there are others who simply fall away.  They fail to "continue in the teaching of Christ" and so show that they do "not have God" (verse 9).  John says, "Whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son" (verse 9).  The mark of a true believer is seen in Paul's words to his young friend, Timothy:  "As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus" (II Timothy 3:14-15).

That is as good a description of a true believer as you will find:  one who continues in the Word.  Those who have no hunger for God's Word, who don't feed on its truth, and who are not growing spiritually are vulnerable to false teachers and do not mature.  That's why Paul wrote to the Ephesians and said that Christ gave "some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  THEN we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  INSTEAD, SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-15).

Truth and love always go together for those who know Jesus Christ and who live to love Him and each other.  John warns those who read his letter that "if anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him" (verse 10).  The truth of Jesus Christ unites those who are truly part of His body with each other, and separates them from those who do not accept the truth of His Word and so who do not truly know Jesus.  We who believe are called to love one another in the TRUTH of Jesus Christ.  Live together with your fellow-believers, "face to face, so that (y)our joy may be complete" (verse 12).  Share His love and His truth with one another as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

"My Father in heaven, as I consider the circumstances that moved John to write this intimate letter to a fellow-believer, I thank You for the Truth that unites Your family in Christ.  Give me grace to continue in the truth by reading, studying and meditating on Your Word as it points to Jesus from beginning to end.  Open my mind by Your Spirit, who lives within me, that I may understand what I read and share THE Truth with those around me, so they, too, may discover the freedom and the joy that only Christ can give.  Let Your love for us overflow to love for You and each other, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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