Choosing your path. (1 John)

screenshot_2018-01-21-19-58-11.png

I wanted to focus on the letter of 1 John. To look at the main aspects within each chapter and how fundamental they are for our faith. Lastly, looking at a personal application for our lives. 1 John is a letter that is convicting but also wonderful and glorious, in the truth it proclaims of our Saviour and who we are because of Jesus. I pray that going through this letter will enable us to grow in our understanding and wisdom of our God. That we would grow in understanding of who we are and who we are called to be. That we would continuously allow our hearts, minds and souls to grow in a deeper love for our Saviour.

1 John begins with the proclamation of that which was from the beginning, the word. That they have seen, heard and touched because the word was Jesus. This is the truth that they will proclaim, the eternal life that was sent by the Father. The reason for their proclamation is that we can join with them in their fellowship. Their fellowship is with the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. It was all inclusive, everyone had the invitation to be part of their fellowship. It was a community, a community which called people to live differently. This is what John addresses through his letter.

Our focus for this blog will be on light and darkness, sin and forgiveness. Which is addressed in (1John 1:5-10). The author makes it clear that this is a message from God which they are declaring to the listener/reader.

God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.’ There is no impurity, God is the purest. There is no way that we can stand in his presence as we are. That is why this chapter calls us to walk in the light. We are called to choose our path; our walk must be the same as our talk. 1:6 ‘If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.’ There cannot be the mix of light and darkness, God is light there is no room for darkness. When we make the decision to walk in the light, God meets us there. ‘and the blood of his Son, purifies us from all sin.’ God knows, that the road of darkness is tempting. It is easy to make the decision to remain in the darkness, due to feelings of unworthiness and dissatisfaction. To walk in the light in relationship with Jesus, takes true commitment. The knowledge of knowing God meets us there, allows us to know we are not doing it in our own strength. It is not about us having to atone for our sins we have committed. Rather, the blood of Jesus purifies us when we offer our sins and ask for forgiveness. We start afresh and we move forward in the light due to our relationship with Jesus. As we continue to walk in the light, Jesus is reflected throughout what we do.  One passage to read is Hebrews 10:22-24 reflects what it means to walk in the light, may that be the prayer for your life.

The other issue that John addresses is that of sin. Which goes hand in hand with the light and darkness. John writes ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us’ (1:8). It addresses the issue that we are still capable of sin, whether intentional or not. There has to be a responsibility to own our sin. We can only be forgiven by confessing. Confessing comes when we give it over to God, we realise we have messed up and we know we need grace and redemption. This must be continuous process. I was reading online about this chapter and came across this emphasis on being a sinner. To paraphrase, it addressed how none of us think we are fully sinless. However, not many of us will say we are a sinner. It emphasised how we will use excuses, like being human and being prone to mistakes. That is something I do because it makes me feel less guilty, Truthfully, it does not deal with the issue. To see it as a mistake, there is little shame in doing it again because you always have an excuse. To see things that are taking us away from God as sin, is not necessarily easy but it convicts us to want to deal with it.

This is what verse 9 emphasises ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ There has to be a willingness to offer all our sins, what I emphasised earlier that God will meet us there. Our sins will be forgiven and we will be purified because of the blood of Christ. Once we begin to address ‘mistakes’ as sin it does become less attractive. We have to make the choice to not keep returning to the things that cause us to sin. If we want to walk in relationship with God, then we have to make the conscious decision to not allow any room for darkness to take its place in our life. I am not saying that is an easy feat for us to do on our own, I struggle with it and I am sure people who have walked in the faith for many years still struggle; it is about us being willing to submit to God’s will and strength and working through that. Temptation is all around us, it is pleasing but inevitably it is distracting from being in relationship and pursuing the will of God.

From the beginning of the letter, it is heavy going. Inevitably it is about getting over the burdens, etc, that sin causes. Dealing with them instead of trying to skirt round them. It allows us to dwell in God’s presence and to become what we are truly called to be. To gain freedom and peace in a world that will quickly rob us of it. Although this first blog has been deep within its content, I pray that it will set the foundation to allow you to develop your faith further and allow you to become who you are destined to be.

As you walk in the light with Me, you have one foot on earth and one foot in heaven,’ (Jesus calling, p227)

May you have a blessed week. Love Victoria. xx

Part Three: How is your faith reflected in your life? Doing the everyday with a faithful spirit.

We come to the final part of this series. The question is, how is your faith reflected in your life? I cannot give you the answer to this because it is our own personal journey. There are many factors that contribute to living out our faith. In this blog, I want to focus on three: daily discipline, being an influencer within your environment and being willing to change. Living out my faith is something I struggle to do daily. Regardless of my own imperfections, God still loves me and calls me his child. I pray that you may know this same truth too.

Daily Discipline

Each day we need to be refuelling ourselves spiritually. I was reminded that God’s word is meant to be our spiritual food. John 6:35 ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ It is something we need daily, to nourish and to strengthen us. Yet many of us, myself included, can go days without reading God’s word. It got me thinking, we do not last long running on yesterdays food. We get tired, irritated, and our body lacks the nutrients it needs. If we make sure our body gets food, why do we find it so hard to spiritually feed ourselves. For many of us we do not see it as appetizing, we can be doing something better with our time. Some/ if not most of us struggle to make sense of what is actually being said. Sometimes we believe that we know that scripture so well, what is the point in reading it again. Some of us are generally lazy, we want others to tell us what it says and what it means. I know I struggle with reading God’s word daily but when you take the time there is always something new to learn.

May we make more of an effort to fulfil ourselves with God’s word. There are many resources online and hundreds of books that are accessible to give you help and guidance as you read God’s words. Authors such as: Timothy Keller, Tom Wright, Francis Chan, Jefferson Bethke, etc are some of my favourites.

Keep your prayer life strong. Psalm 17:6 ‘I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.’ Truthfully prayer does not always come easy to us. There are various reasons why we struggle. Prayer is not about praying about the right things with all the right/fancy words. If we flip through the Psalms and see how they communicate with God. It was raw and honest. We should use prayer to give over our worries and our concerns ; not just for us, for the people around us and for the wider world. Prayer is raw because it is us laying our hearts before God and giving over what we worry about and has held us captive for a long time. Prayer changes not only us but how we react to what happens in the world. Luke 18:1 ‘The Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and never give up.’

Each day we should be allowing ourselves time to spend with God. In prayer and through reading God’s word. Turn on worship music, dance and sing because this is your time with God. It is through daily discipline that living out your faith will become easier and natural. When you are transformed from the inside, it will always flow out.

Using your environment to be an influencer.

For some of us we only believe we are living out our faith if we are out changing the world. Out in a foreign country, helping to end poverty. Building churches or campaigning for this and that. While those are all amazing things to be doing, we are not all called to do that. Some of us are called to live in the environment we are in. To be a light where maybe there has been darkness for a long time. Matthew 5:18 ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,’ At the moment I do retail work, which means dealing with people constantly. That is where I try to, live out my faith. That does not mean I try to convert everyone into being a Christian. I just try to live a life of love and understanding to all the people I meet. I try to have an upbeat attitude, also the willingness to not be afraid to talk about my faith when people ask me why I have such an attitude. It is not something that I do in my own strength, it is something I have to pray persistently about. It is something I believe we can all do, we do not have to be doing something big to be living a life of faith.

In the environment we are in, may we all pray about how God can use us to be an influencer. It could be going with a positive attitude into a stressful environment. Being the listening ear/voice for those who normally go unheard. It could look like anything, continuously trust God to lead you. What you are called to do may not always be easy but to remain faithful will lead to amazing things happening.  It is about doing the everyday with a faithful spirit.

 

Being willing to change

Living a life of faith, means we will not always be in a comfortable place. That is okay, it is not easy, but it is something Jesus warned us all of. Matthew 16:24-26 ‘The Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the sake will find it. For what will it profit a mean if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

If we want to remain faithful, then we cannot become complacent. It is all about moving forwards and pressing on. Sometimes what we are called to do will be well beyond our comfort zone, but we are in good company. Some of the key characters in the Bible struggled with what they were called to do: Esther, Jonah, Abraham and Moses. One promise that we can use as steadfast anchor for our life is Deuteronomy 31:6 ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’

Living a life of faith will change our perspective on life and how we live it. For some of us it may come easier than others. Remember to not compare but to continuously strive forwards.  I pray this series has helped you in your faith. Whether you are coming to it for the first time or reconnecting with your faith. I started writing this series when I was in a hard place with my faith. Rediscovering these truths has benefitted me in being able to connect with my faith again. I have shrugged off a lot of the burdens I had put upon myself and came face to face with my Saviour again. If this is what you need to do too, then soak in the word of God and there will be release and freedom again. You are so loved and so precious. May you let God have your heart, mind and soul.

Have a blessed week. Love Victoria. xx

Part Two: What is your relationship like with God? (Without all the pretence)

I want to start with some words, from a song that spoke words of truth.

Riley Clemmons, ‘Broken Prayers’

“You want my tears, every messy word

Every scar and every fear

You want all I have

With no holding back

When I am hurt, at my worst

You meet me there

Cause you see the beauty

Of my broken prayers.”

 

Sometimes there is such a pretence of having this perfect relationship with God. If we say the right words and act in the demeanour that is seen as worthy, then we have a perfect relationship with God. I am not going to dismiss that for some, having a structured way of how they live their life and worship God works for them. What I worry about, is that for most of the time we are scared to be our true selves with God.

 

This struck me when I was reading a few verses from Genesis.

 

Genesis 3:8b-10 So they hid from the Lord among the trees. Then the Lord called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

 

Is this not true for our lives today? Instead of living our lives bare in front of God, we glaze over the subject or we attempt to battle it on our own. If there are aspects in our lives that we do not believe glorify God, then we attempt to keep them hidden. It leads to a relationship that is broken, here truth is not seen as necessary.

 

Going back to the story of the Garden of Eden. Their lying and half-truths led to them being banished from the garden. Although God was still with them, they no longer remained in that intimate and safe place with God. Sin was now the great divide. Sin remained the great divide until God sent Jesus as the sacrifice and saviour for all. The imagery of the curtain being torn from top to bottom, was the end of sin having the authority to divide us from God. Although, sin remains, we are seen as worthy by the name of Jesus.

 

We have to learn not to be scared of laying it all bare before God. I am so thankful, that the people found within the Bible are not perfect people who have it all together. There is the quote that states “God uses imperfect people for his perfect plan.” If you look online there is a list of famous Bible characters and listed next to them is their greatest weakness. These people sinned (messed up) the same as you or me; they were drunks, murderers, gossipers, adulterers, etc. One attribute they all had was that they were faithful, they did not allow their sin to divide them from God. Some of them paid a price for their sin, although they were forgiven, due to it having repercussions on the people around them they had to make amends. In God’s mercy and grace, he still did miraculous acts through their lives.

 

This is a valuable lesson for our lives. No sin, no mistake, is too great for God. God is gracious and loving and kind. God does not glory in people suffering at all. In a world that is broken and that always has a word to say about how your life should look. It is hard to see a loving and gracious God in it. I know that it is a struggle that I have myself. What we can be assured of is that when we come close to God, he comes close to us. That no matter where we are in life, if we reach out to God then he will meet us there.

 

James 4:8 Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.

 

Like any relationship, different ways of communicating are going to be important. One of the worst things we do is compare our faith with how other people live out theirs. That was never meant to be the point. Comparing only ever leads to inadequacy or to judgement. We need to trust that the way that God ministers to us is enough. We do not all need to be listening to the same worship music. We do not need to be at the same spiritual place as those around us. The one important action is to keep journeying. For some that will be in small steps, for others they will make leap and bounds quickly. To be honest, it is our own relationship with God. People can offer guidance and advice, it must be our own convictions. We cannot live in the shadow of someone else’s faith. Be a part of a community of other Christians, not just for the sake of it but because there is belief that we can use our faith to play a part in building community, that will always extend outwards.

 

I pray that you will know the hope that you can have a relationship with God. That you do not have to hide who you are. Regardless, of what you have been told; God accepts you for who you are. I pray that your perspective of God will not be shaped on ignorant and judgemental people who have used their faith in an l.attempt to destroy people. I pray that your life will be blessed as you begin to know Jesus in your life or if you are connecting in with your faith again. Remember, when you are faithful God can use your life to do incredible acts. Even in the simplest way, God’s hand can be seen upon your life.

 

You are so loved. May you have a blessed week. Victoria. Xx