Years ago, as a young marine, I spent the night on watch in the jungle of Thailand. As the sun rose over the treetops I had a unique view on a hilltop over the jungle valley. It was breathing taking and I knew it. However, it was a mere moment of relief shrouded in misery that preceded this moment and would undoubtedly follow, as the day proceeded and the jungle heated up and life continued into the next day and so forth. I felt in that moment empty, devoid of a soul. I didn’t feel that way simply because of the rigors of military life, but more so because of the moral compromises I had made up to this point in my young life.
I felt in that moment empty, devoid of a soul.
Womanizing, drunkenness, and violence were the pillars of my life. A few months later as we returned home, I felt like an apparition as I looked on as all of my friends return to loved ones, wives, and children. Up to this point in my life, I was fearless. However, at that moment I was filled with profound fear as I realized I didn’t have a reason to come home, to live. In response to that fear, I went on a search for a reason to come home before I deployed again. The reason that I came up with was a young girl whom I promptly married eight months later. The tragedy of the situation was that this girl I spent three weeks with before we decided to be married and saw intermittently over the next eight months prior to our marriage, I then only saw for 14 days over the next two years prior to my discharge from service as I was deployed around the world. She served her purpose. I survived. I came home.
I expected that since she saved me from myself during my time in service that the same would be true once I came home. What I came to find out is that she expected me to deliver her from her own issues in her life as well. We both failed each other miserably failing to save each other. Two years later she left me for another man.
A year later I met my beautiful wife, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, I was once again looking for another savior. This time I needed a savior to redeem me from my failures in my first marriage. Another two years later (according to schedule), my marriage was on the brink of disaster as Elizabeth was pregnant and considering divorce. There was a pattern in my life that was developing. A pattern that was only broken because I was in fact finally saved in 2004. However, I wasn’t saved by a spouse or anything else in my life. I was saved by Jesus Christ. Jesus saved me from what I really needed to be saved from, which was the compromises I had made. Jesus saved me from me. As a result, Jesus saved me from a second failed marriage because I was freed up with Elizabeth to finally stop expecting her to save me. I finally got to the point that I could simply love her and live for her benefit. I turned from holding her accountable for everything that happened in my life to studying her and discovering this glorious woman the Lord had blessed me with. I finally started to know my wife. I really hadn’t known her up to that point.
Jesus saved me from what I really needed to be saved from, which was the compromises I had made. Jesus saved me from me.
Every day that has passed, I have grown in my love of Elizabeth because my relationship with Jesus has grown and I have grown in my knowledge of who she is. In fact, when we have issues it is largely due to the fact that distractions have drawn my attention from getting to know her more back to expectations I have put on her.
We cannot have a reasonable expectation of developing the relationships in our life if we place our focus on our own issues rather than investing our energy in knowing those we love and how we can live for their benefit. There is no greater relationship that this is true of than our relationship with Jesus Christ. We can have no reasonable expectation of having a rich profound relationship with Jesus if we invest no energy in trying to know Him more fully. So how do we do that? The Apostle John answers that question in the book of 1 John. The book of 1 John is set in the context of 2nd and 3rd John where we find issues in the church that revolve around false teaching and attitudes among believers that revealed their knowledge of Jesus was not on point. The book of 1 John is all about knowing Jesus and what we should expect to see in the life of believers when they know Jesus.
In chapter 2 of 1 John, John tells us in vv. 1-6 that the test of our knowledge of Jesus, or the evidence of our relationship with Jesus, is our obedience to “His commandments” and “keeping His Word”. This, of course, implies two things. One, we are studying Who Jesus is in the Word of God. Two, we are studying what pleases Him in the Word of God. If we invest our time and energy in studying Jesus, the growth of our relationship with Him will be chronicled by the transformation of our hearts toward Him and how that plays out in our hearts toward other people. John tells us that our obedience will be evidence of something happening internally and that the love of God is, in fact, being perfected in us.
John gives us the alternative to this growth in chapter 3. We have a choice. We can choose to unite ourselves to Jesus and invest time and resources into that relationship or we can as John says in v. 6 of chapter 3 continue in patterns of sin that will reveal what relationships we truly worship. I am not suggesting that if we sin it is evidence that we have no relationship with Jesus. I am saying that our desire to know Jesus will necessarily continue to develop a desire in our hearts to break patterns of sin and find joy in living in obedience to Jesus. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus the patterns of sin in our lives will shorten and/or disappear and our obedience and faithfulness to Jesus will continue to grow.
In my mind though, the real question is why we would choose obedience. John gives us two reasons. One, in v. 5 of chapter 3 John tells us that Jesus came in order to save us from our sins. Two, and more importantly, in v. 16 of chapter 3 John tells us that our barometer for love is the love Jesus showed us by laying down His life in order to save us. This is our motivation for pursuing Jesus in the Word and desiring to live a life that pleases Him. It is as simple, yet as hard as, recognizing the profound darkness that exists in our own hearts, the sins of our lives, and the need we have for the only One Who can save us from ourselves. When we examine our need and the willingness and love of God to save us it has to motivate us to continue to pursue Him and live for Him. What’s more, it should motivate us then to lay down our own lives for one another, c.f. 1 John 3:16.
- Are patterns of sin or love for Jesus characterizing how you do life?
- How are you investing your time, talent, and treasure in pursuing Jesus?
- Who are believers in your life that you trust that you can ask to help you find scripture to break patterns of sin in your life?
- Develop a list of scriptures about Who God is, e.g. 1 John 4:8 – God is love, Rom. 3:21-26 – God is righteous, etc.
Our Altamont campus is currently going through the series 1 John: The Freedom of God’s Love.
Join us for our Sunday services @ 10am at our Altamont campus in Livermore (6749 Southfront Rd. Livermore 94551).