1 John 4:7-21
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Interestingly enough, this song was cause for an uprising in our Christian high school. Some parents thought the song was too contemporary and ungodly, so they pulled their students out and sent them to a more conservative school.
According to Wikipedia:
"We Are One in the Spirit" is a Christian hymn written in the 1960s by a then-Catholic priest, the late Fr. Peter Scholtes. It is inspired by John 13:35. The title of the hymn, “They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love,” originates in a phrase that non-believers used to describe Christian believers of early Church: "Behold, how they love one another."
Maybe the parents knew it was written by a Catholic. (This is not a commentary on ecumenicalism.) The 1960s were characterized by love statements: love child, love-in. You name it, it was all about love. The 60’s revolution was about making love, not war.
What’s love got to do with it, anyway? 1 John 4 sheds light on the subject of love. Verse 19 is one we learned as children: We love him because he first loved us (KJV). We now know the verse should read, We love because he first loved us. Verse 16 says God is love. The point is, our love is rooted in God’s love because he is the author of love. We love because God introduced us to love.
But man’s love is twisted if it isn’t based on God’s love. His love brings unity. His love casts out fear. John says in verse 7, love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Man’s love is imperfect if we say we love God, but then we hate our brother.
Now comes God and the perfect model of love. God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life. God’s love gives. God’s love gives sacrificially to the point of giving us his best—his one and only—not so that he can benefit, but so that we can have life eternal in heaven when we deserve hell. Now that’s love – unselfish, beautiful, perfect love.
Life Application Questions
Obedience to God’s Word and will design us to become “living epistles”, that others may read. Why does obedience matter? The kids skirted the edge of the trail to Laurel Falls. Loose stones plunged over the precipice as parents reminded them, again, to not walk near the edge. The kids raced around the curve in the trail and disappeared and their parent’s commands, again, echoed off the mountain, “slow down, come back here with us.” The 3 and 5-year-old chaffed at the rules and didn’t desire obedience. Their Dad rounded the curve in the trail and we all heard his urgent whisper, “bear, bear, bear.” The fully grown black bear was just a few yards off of the trail. Obedience’s reasons became clear. “…Be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey.”
(Deuteronomy 1:3) The Israelites, as well as the kids on the trail, needed to address their obedience issues: the why of obeying, the who of obeying, and the product of obeying.
Just like children need the protection of obeying their parents, the Israelites needed the protection of obeying Yahweh, and we need God’s protection in our lives too. Yahweh knew the dangers and blessings in their path and in the future generations’ paths. “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God so that we might always prosper and be kept alive…” (Deuteronomy 6:24) God was concerned about the external conduct of His people, but He was also concerned that their hearts were devoted to Him. The children on the path to Laurel Falls, chaffed against the rules of their parents, but they reluctantly obeyed because they trusted their parents’ wisdom, and their parents had proved their trustworthiness in their relationship with them. God had proven Himself, faithful and trustworthy, repeatedly, through the wilderness, despite the Israelites reluctant obedience. When have you had to exercise your reluctant obedience in a trustworthy God? “…The Lord, our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5) Successful obedience occurs in the context of a relationship. Why do you find it hard to obey all that God has commanded?
What does obedience produce? We want to become “living epistles” so that others may read as God writes the Word on our hearts. “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.” (2 Corinthians 3:2) The product of obedience is how we live, and how we live backs up what we say. Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7. How can children in your life “read your life” and see obedience to God in action? Those children careening down the trail had the opportunity to safely view a bear and avoid becoming a bear snack because they chose obedience. The Israelites were invited to enjoy a “land flowing with milk and honey”, and to live long and prosper, within their obedience to Yahweh. Your obedient life speaks volumes about the who and why of your “obey”. “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.” (1 Corinthians 3:3)
The word "rules" is distasteful to most people. “Commandments” is even worse. So, we substitute words like” guidelines” or “suggestions.” Sorry, but this won't do when we're talking about what Yahweh requires. I wonder if he thinks, "What is it about 'You may do this' or 'You may not do that' that you don't understand?"
Do you remember learning the Ten Commandments? Have they been the rules you live by? If not, why not?
In the Ten Commandments God has very graciously given us the secret to having good relationships, first of all with himself, then with our parents, and finally with other people. I like to tell children, "Rules are like fences. They are there so you won't get hurt."
God has given his children rules to help them avoid being hurt.
It all begins with a right relationship with God. Humans need something or someone to worship. We have been created with such a vacuum in our hearts. But, when people don't know about the one true God, they create gods of their own.
What are some false, man-created gods that 21st-century people worship?
Think about how blessed you are to know the one true God? But our God is a jealous God, who will not tolerate the worship of anyone or anything but himself. Thus, the first four commandments are our "rules for a relationship" with him.
1. You must worship only me.
2. You must not make any kind of an idol to worship in place of me.
3. You must not misuse my name.
4. You must keep the seventh day as a day of rest.
So, how are you doing with the first four?
Dr. Rata's recent sermon on the plagues, with its application for us today, should have made us all stop and evaluate just who and what we idolize and worship. What are you worshipping before or instead of Yahweh?
Today, we may often think about our relationship with Jesus more than with God, but, of course, Jesus is God. So, the words of this gospel song should be our daily pledge.
I'll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus
I went to visit the shrine of plenty,
But found its storerooms all filled with dust.
I bowed at altars of gold and silver,
But as I knelt there, they turned to rust
So, I'll worship only at the feet of Jesus,
His cup alone: My holy grail.
There'll be no other gods before Him
Just Jesus only will never fail.
Oh, God, help me live by this promise every day. Holy Spirit, please show me the things and people I have put before you and help me worship God alone. Amen.
jbd & gmd
This scene reminds me a bit of the story of Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The difference is that Moses, of his own accord, walked straight into the “devouring fire.” Rather than being thrown into the flames by King Nebuchadnezzar, he was invited into them by God. It’s like he jumped off the edge of a volcano into spewing molten lava. No wonder the people of Israel thought he must have died when he didn’t show up again for many days.
But he hadn’t died. What he had done was enter the terrifyingly glorious presence of Yahweh, the one, true God.
That’s not to say that Moses himself hadn’t done this with some apprehension. Of this same scene, the author of Hebrews wrote: “Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear’’ (Hebrews 12:22). Facing his own trepidation, Moses went to God on behalf of the people, who were petrified by the blazing appearance, thunderous voice, and holy command of God.
The author of Hebrews went on to write that we who are followers of Jesus Christ do not approach God this way. We don’t come to “a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them”(Hebrews 12:18-19).
Instead, we “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).
This is an altogether more inviting picture. And it is made possible because Jesus, like Moses, went ahead of us into the presence of God. Not only did Jesus go into the Father’s presence, He made a way for us to do the same. Jesus did this by dying in our place for us, resurrecting triumphantly over death, and then ascending to the Father’s side. His “sprinkled blood” covers us, washes away our guilt and shame, and makes us worthy to confidently follow the trail he pioneered into God’s presence.
But don’t think that God has changed. The author of Hebrews warned his readers not to reject this offer of grace...“for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). He is worthy of all our respect, our reverent worship, and our lives.
Let’s fear God and cling to Jesus, following him with confident faith into God’s presence.
Moses is my name. Yahweh is my God. Israel is my nationality. Being God’s spokesperson is my responsibility.
You may remember that God spoke to me once from a burning bush. He also told me many things to say to Pharaoh. But he said the most to me from Mt. Sinai.
The first thing God said from the holy mountain was probably the most important. It was about the covenant relationship: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession (Ex 19:5).
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until the people built a golden calf and worshiped it. Incredibly, they gave credit to false gods for bringing them out of Egypt! It should have been obvious that the “if” of the covenant relationship was serious business. Apparently, they ignored it. And God responded appropriately, “Leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them that I may destroy them” (Ex 32:10). So much for being the “treasured possession.” (For the rest of the story, see Ex 32:11-35.)
The Israelites ignoring their part of the covenant relationship was especially grievous since even before the exodus out of Egypt God had demonstrated his grace in the most amazing way. It was a night of life and death. The angel of death “passed over.” No blood on the doorpost? Thousands of Egyptian firstborn died. Lots of blood on the doorpost? Thousands of Israelite firstborn lived. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex 12:13).
God created a memorial so the people would never forget what he had done. Passover: Lambs slaughtered. Blood splattered. Bread flattened (made without yeast: no time to let it rise in the rush to flee Egypt). “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you” (Ex 24:8).
Fast-forwarding, I am now speaking as the Moses of the New Testament. Jesus is my name. Yahweh is my Father. The people of the world, my ministry.
You probably remember sermons I preached, parables I told, and many things I said. But those weren’t my words. “The Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it . . . whatever I say is just what the Father told me to say” (John 12:49-50). Being God’s spokesperson, like the Moses of the Old Testament, was my responsibility too.
One of the most important things I said was one of the last. It was the final time I was together with all the disciples. It was that night again—life and death. Passover. But not the same. It was back to the future. This time, the focus was not bread without yeast, but my flesh: “My body given for you” (Luke 22:19). This time, not the blood of a lamb, but my blood: The new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (Luke 22:20). But beware: “Woe to the one who betrays me” (Luke 22:22).
Now please don’t ignore the “if” of the new covenant: “If you hold to my teachings, then you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Life Application Questions
As a newspaper reporter, I’d often find myself at an event, meeting, or scene of an accident. It was vital to get information that could be reported to our readers. They were confident that we’d provide the most accurate, up-to-date information.
Frequently, when I encountered such a situation, access to the general public would be denied. But I would show up, introduce myself as a reporter for the local newspaper and be provided access – to cover a meeting, interview a witness, or talk with an investigating officer. Often, I was recognized by those providing security and allowed admittance.
In many cases, it was an “all access” pass that permitted me close proximity to the action, take photographs as needed, and interview individuals who were in the know.
I’ll guess the Israelites at the base of Mount Sinai wished they had an all-access pass to whatever was going on. They watched as Moses built an altar then sacrificed young bulls as a fellowship offering. He splashed the blood of the animals on the alter and then on or towards the people as a sign of their covenant with the Lord. It was a solemn and momentous occasion. Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu and the 70 elders of Israel trekked up the mountain to meet with the Lord. (Can’t you imagine the stories they had when they returned?)
With the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, we no longer have to wait for someone else to share a story of an event or read the words of God to us. As Dr. John Davis writes, “The believer has an equally glorious opportunity to come into the presence of God in the high of holies because of the blood of Christ. We no longer have to wait at the bottom of the mountain for revelation that has been given to us in the Holy Scripture. Our responsibility is to read and obey (Moses and the Gods of Egypt: Studies in Exodus, BMH Books, 1971, 1986, p. 250).
The gap between the two mountains had a chasm that Troublesome Creek ran through. You could ford the creek when it was running low or you could build a bridge. The solution to the problem was to build a swinging bridge, suspended over the creek; that shuddered with every step. Those first steps of trust, stepping onto that swaying structure were the most difficult, yet this was THE WAY to reach the other side. Sin has created a chasm that has separated us from a Holy God. There is a gap that begins at my sin-filled heart that needs a “solution” to be able to draw near to God.
My white knuckles gripped the swinging sides of the bridge, with my heart jumping, at what seemed to be the perilous steps that were needed to cross the bridge. My fear was nothing compared to the Israelites fears and their encounter with God. They shuddered in their fear of the omnipotent God. God’s appearance at Mount Sinai emphasized God’s Holiness and separation from His chosen people. The combination of washing themselves and changing clothes (Exodus 19:10-11, 14-15), witnessing the storm (Exodus 19:16-19), and keeping their distance from Sinai, couldn’t help but impress the people with their own sinfulness and God’s majestic holiness. The gap between God and the Israelites was clear. They weren’t clean enough, they weren’t holy enough. Their sins separated them from a Holy God and they had to keep their distance. When have you felt like God was distant? How have you tried to bridge the gap between you and God?
The structure of the Old Testament worship emphasized man’s sinfulness and God’s “otherness”. The emphasis was always to keep your distance. The Israelites experience at Mount Sinai underscored their separation and their sin. Attempts have been made to try and bridge this gap between God and man. Physical structures have been built. People have tried to build the bridge of “good enough”. People have tried to develop their own methods to reach God, but without success. How have you seen man try to bridge the gap between God and man?
Like the tenuous steps of the fearful on that swinging bridge, we have the opportunity to step into faith and draw near to God. James 4: 8 tells us, “Come near to God and he will come near to you…” God has bridged the distance between God and man, and sinner’s only need to put their faith in God’s bridge over the chasm between God and man. In the New Testament, the emphasis is on the nearness of God. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:14) In Hebrews we read, (“for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:19)
We can draw near to God through Jesus' sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection, unlike the Israelites who lived in a cloud, (Exodus 19:9), of separation. What steps will you take to draw near to the God of the Universe today? God’s bridge is secure and your footsteps can be confident, no white knuckles required.
Exodus 19:1-8; 1 Peter 2:1-12
Whether it’s being picked for the kickball team or selected from an orphanage, we all long to belong. We have been created for relationships—especially in a family. And there's perhaps no greater personal sorrow than to be left out, of not belonging. In today's world, where we're being forced into groups by others who think they know where we belong, it has become more and more difficult to feel that you belong. Somehow, we don't belong anywhere.
Remember how special it made you feel to be chosen for the team? If you have been adopted, how often have your parents told you how special you are because you were chosen to belong to their family? How special! But, even then, the knowledge that you were abandoned by your birth parents can be very hard to live with.
Imagine how the people of Israel must have felt. Suddenly free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, they are wondering where they belong. There's a strange security even in being a slave—at least you belong somewhere and to someone. But God!
Two months after their dramatic exit from Egypt, the Israelite travelers set up camp in the Sinai desert and their leader is called up the mountain for a face-to-face with Yahweh! And what does God tell Moses? “Tell the people, ‘You are chosen’!” The Exodus account says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vss. 5-6).
In First Peter the apostle echoes this promise in a more personal way when he writes to us, God's New Testament family, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession” (2:9) What a reassuring statement! We belong to God!
The question for us today is "Chosen for what?" Peter's answer is in the rest of verse 9 “. . . that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (NIV). The New Living Translation says, “As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God's people.” Now, you belong! Praise the Lord!
“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name” (John 15:16).
If you have been chosen, how are you showing the world God's glory?
jbd & gmd
Have you ever been offered something and wondered, “Is this a gift from God or a test from God?”
Believe it or not, I once had a relative offer to give me his cherry red Mercedes convertible. No kidding! I’ve accepted any number of hand-me-down vehicles in my life; however, I decided this one was a test from God, not a gift. I politely refused.
Some things can be both a gift and a test. Such was the case with manna.
Manna was a gift—a gift that kept on giving for 40 years! God provided food for his people. In doing so, he revealed his glory.
Manna was also a test of the people. God told Moses, “I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”
The first test was this: take only what you need for today. God was saying, “Trust me. Trust that I will provide for you tomorrow, too.” How did the people do? We read: “However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.”
The second test had to do with the Sabbath. God had told them there would be no manna on the Sabbath. The seventh day was set apart to rest and focus on God. Nonetheless, “some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.”
The obedience of the people isn’t impressive. God patiently teaches them that he is worthy of their trust. Sadly, the people's focus was often on the manna and not on the One who miraculously provided it.
Much later, this all repeated itself when Jesus arrived. One evening Jesus miraculously multiplied bread and fishes, feeding over 5,000 people. The next morning the crowd sought out Jesus again, hoping for breakfast. The ensuing conversation turned to manna: “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31). In other words, ”What are you going to give us, Jesus?”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:32-35).
Jesus offered them something better than manna. He offered them never ending life through faith in him. This was a real gift. But it was also a test. Would they believe?
“But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (John 6:36).
Jesus still makes us this offer. It is both a gift and a test. Will we receive the gift by putting our faith in Jesus and trusting him with our lives?
Moses was commissioned by God to lead Israel out of Egypt and into the land of promise. In preparation, he was trained in Egypt for 40 years as Pharaoh’s heir, and for the next 40 years, he was trained in the wilderness by the God of the universe. Wow! What great training - more than required for a Doctor of Ministry degree today. Clearly not a novice!
Yet Moses was being overworked, as observed by Jethro, his father-in-law: “The work is too heavy for you. You cannot handle it alone” (Ex 18:18). Jethro thought Moses needed relief, or assistants, or something.
Moses had good reason to take his father-in-law’s advice seriously. (Of course, taking his mother-in-law’s advice might have been a different story, but we won’t go there!) Jethro would have been Moses’ senior, since his daughter, Zipporah, was Moses’ wife. Furthermore, Moses had lived in the land of Midian for many years and had likely developed a trusted relationship with Jethro. Most of all, Jethro was a Midianite priest, named Reuel – “friend of God” (Ex 2:16-18). Apparently, he was not a priest of a god of Midian, but rather of the Most High God. So Moses recognized Jethro as a wise counselor.
Here we see two leaders, well trained in their perspective roles, and Jethro felt comfortable voicing his concern to Moses about the long hours he was spending providing counsel to the Israelites. Moses’ daily life appeared burdensome. We don’t see him complaining, only Jethro observing – late hours and long lines of needy Israelites.
At this point, Moses could have been an “independent snot” and said, “I’ve got this, thanks anyway.” His pride could have stood in the way. But what actually transpired was Moses’ humility in action. He accepted Jethro’s advice and benefitted. And Israel benefitted by getting more efficient counsel.
Now let’s step into today. Our church has many older people who are well-versed in the Word of God – and are friends of God. We also have many people who are well trained in their life’s calling. Wouldn’t people in our church benefit from the Moses and Jethros in our church family sharing their wisdom and counsel?
The mentoring relationship concept has been introduced as a goal for our body by Pastor Bruce. Rhonda Raber has specifically suggested it for the women. The Discipleship Counseling ministry also exists to provide discipling, mentoring, and counsel.
Life Application Questions