Friday, June 16, 2006

Finding What We Are Looking For

1 John 5:1-5 begins and ends with faith, but not just any kind of faith. John is concerned with a faith that is focused on Jesus as the Messiah (v.1) and Jesus as the Son of God (v.5). It is important to keep this in mind in a day when many people are talking about faith and spirituality but frequently the kind that are severed from God's revelation of himself in the Bible. When it comes to Jesus there is no room for theological creativity which seems to be the darling child of our postmodern age. We are shut up to the biblical revelation as that revelation is interpreted within its canonical context by comparing Scripture with Scripture. If we know the Lord in a saving way, which is another way of saying we have been born of God, we believe that Jesus is the Messiah. We receive him as the Prophet, Priest and King whose coming was foretold in the Old Testament. Not only that, but we receive him as the Son of God, the unique Son of the Father who is one with the Father and yet distinct from him. The one who is full of grace and truth and who has made the Father known (John 1).

This faith in Jesus is vitally connected in these verses with love for God and the other members of his family and obedience to God as an expression of that love. John does not see love and obedience as in anyway conflicting with one another. They go together and flow out of one another. Sometimes people talk as though love and obedience are mutually exclusive or at least not very compatible. But this is not the biblical understanding of the relationship between the two. Love is another one of the evidences of the new birth and it is the way that faith expresses itself. But love is never left hanging in midair with no solid foundation under it. Love keeps the commands of God. So tight is the connection that John says: "This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world."

When we think of obeying commands it is somehow less than loving. Love is spontaneous, arising almost without effort from the heart. Commands have a sense of duty about them, maybe even drudgery or reluctance. But not according to John's way of thinking. Love expresses itself in a delight to do what God wants us to do, not only because it is his will but because it is what we were made to do. We want to please the Lord. His commands are not burdensome because we have been put in a completely new position with regard to our relationship to the world which always chafes under his authority. We see things differently now and have begun to experience the fulfillment he promised to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Personally, I think that these verses are very helpful in dealing with the discontentment and restlessness that seems to mark so many. People wander from amusement to amusement, from relationship to relationship, from shopping mall to shopping mall in the search for some kind of meaning and fulfillment. What they do not realize is that these things are not found in the world but only in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is only as we receive him by faith and that faith in turn fills our hearts with a new love which in turn produces a new obedience do we find what we were looking for all along and so much more. John knows from personal experience what he is talking about. His life was changed by Jesus. And John wants all of us to experience the glory of this transformation for ourselves!

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