no one said it was easy
One of the most disturbing & comforting things Jesus said to his disciples – which John, one of them wrote down – was this: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
A few years later, this same John (or at least another disciple named John) had to amplify this same message to a group of Jesus followers. They were “having trouble”.
Trouble because people who didn’t believe Jesus was Lord, who didn’t agree with their message, lifestyle and mission, were opposing them, criticizing them, persecuting them.
Trouble because some of their own community were giving up on the faith. Leaving because they were tired, discouraged or deceived by others.
Trouble because it was hard to follow Jesus. His way required self-sacrifice, self-denial and selflessness. That’s hard to do. It still is.
In fact, we as Jesus-followers experience trouble today for all the same reasons. This letter – poem, really – is an encouragement, a challenge, to not give up.
As you read, I pray that the truth, the images, the ideas, will inspire and encourage you in the harder road you have chosen; the one that ultimately leads to life.
Before you jump in, watch this short video (up to 6:20) that gives you an idea of what you’ll be reading in the coming week:
Read: 1 John 1:1-4 (here)
What an amazing introduction to this message. Yes, following Jesus is hard. Yes others don’t believe in Him. Yes others are losing their faith in Him. But the one we follow and love and live for is REAL. The ones who first told his story saw him, touched him, ate with him, hugged him – in the flesh. And not only is He real, he offers real life.
Take a few minutes to thank Jesus that He came into our world, was seen and known and touched and heard; God, in our language.
Thank Him that these ancient writings were preserved over thousands of years, so that now what they saw has been passed on to you.
Thank Him for the people in your life who passed on the message of Christ to you.
Thank Him for the men and women of faith over the centuries who stayed following Jesus through very hard times, so that now you have a faith community to be a part of.
Ask Him, as the word of Life, to revive your spirit, mind and body with the reality of who He is. Ask Him to help you keep following him, despite the hardships you are experiencing.
Pray for those you know of in our faith community who are experiencing hardship today.
Read: 1 John 1:5 – 2:2 (here)
The light of the world. Sound wonderful.
Except when we’re trying to hide. Except when we’re trying to hide something.
Being found out, being exposed, being caught. No one likes that feeling. We all try to avoid it.
For some of us, that’s why confession is a negative word. It creates a bad feeling in us.
Perhaps churches or pastors or parents used the word confession or the idea of repenting of sin as a negative, manipulative or shameful experience for us.
Nothing could be further from the reality that Jesus offers us in confession.
No, it’s not easy to admit when we are wrong. It’s even harder to see where we have been wrong or are in the wrong. We don’t like others pointing it out.
But John reminds us that the light – reality, truth, vulnerability, confession – is not only a necessary place for us to step into, but a blessing. In the light – when we are honest about ourselves, our sin, our shortcomings, weakesses, omissions, we get to receive forgiveness, purification and freedom.
Take a few moments to confess any sins of the past 24 hours that come to mind. If nothing comes to mind, ask Jesus if there is anything he wants you to confess, turn away from, admit.
Then thank him for being your advocate (this is where we get the idea of a defense lawyer from; remember your French vocab from grade 10??? Avocat = lawyer…sorry for the traumatic reminder of grade 10). Jesus is not the one who accuses you, but the one who defends you. How incredible is that? That’s why confession is a beautiful and freeing act – we RUN to our defender; away from the enemy of our souls who is called the accuser.
Ask him to cleanse you, not only of your sin, but of any attitude that says you have no sin, nothing to confess, and that others have more to change than you do.
Take a few moments of silence to enjoy and delight in his grace and forgiveness.
Use this song as your closing prayer:
Read: 1 John 2:3-11 (here)
In light of what we’ve already read this week about light and darkness, sin and confession, John’s exhortation here about the way we treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ is serious. One of the surest ways to “live in darkness” he says, is to hate, or hold things against, or fail to love, another brother or sister.
Take a few moments to consider this question: is there any fellow Jesus-follower in your life, church or family, with whom you are currently in conflict, or have angry, bitter or hostile feelings toward.
If anyone comes to mind, take a few moments to do the following:
- Confess the feelings, animosity, ill-will or acts of unkindness you have done towards this person
- Ask Jesus to forgive you for trying to make them pay for sins that Jesus has already paid for
- Ask Jesus to give you his love and grace that He had towards his brothers and sisters who criticized him, abandoned him or tried to use him.
- Ask Jesus to flood your life with His light – light that helps you see what’s really going on, to see how the enemy is at work to divide you and others, to see what steps of repair or blessing you might need to take
- Close with praying for this person – pray for blessing, healing, growth, life.
If no one comes to mind, pray for any other Jesus-followers you know who are in conflict with each other. Follow a similar process above on their behalf.
Read: 1 John 2: 12-17 (here)
This is John bursting out into a song, a hymn. It might have been one that was circulating already, and he’s quoting it. It might be one he wrote, or a mash-up he put together. Either way, it’s a song that invites others into singing. John wants his readers to remember and celebrate the fact that they are:
- Children of God
- Loved by their heavenly Father
- Victorious over the evil one
- Filled with the teaching of Jesus AND the life of Jesus through His Spirit (“The word of God lives in you)
That’s a pretty amazing list. Take a few minutes to thank God for these things.
Which one on the list means the most to you today?
Which one do you need to be reminded of more, or become a greater reality in your life today?
Who else in your life needs to know one or more of these things? Pray it for them (and then consider texting/emailing/calling and telling them about it).
Take a few minutes to worship with this song that echoes some of these ideas:
Read 1 John 2:18-27 (here)
As we have learned so far from this letter, it’s not easy to stay following Jesus. Likely you didn’t need to read any of this letter to know that.
There are so many reasons to quit on our faith:
We can’t see Jesus in the flesh (at least John can say “we saw him, touched him”). Wouldn’t it be easier if we could talk to him face to face? Hear him audibly speak to us.
Maybe. But many people saw him face to face. Touched him. And did not believe. In fact, Jesus told one of his disciples who saw him, touched him, ate with him but still struggled to believe that WE (all the people who believed without seeing) were really BLESSED.
It’s also hard to follow the ways of Jesus. To keep ourselves sexually pure. To not hold on to possessions or wealth. To use what we have to serve and bless others. To forgive. To pray for and bless our enemies.
(I’m hearing an AMEN right now.)
And it’s hard to follow when others are trying to convince us to un-follow. Maybe that’s our spouse. Our friend. Our parent. Our co-workers. Extended family. Others who have un-followed and are posting about it.
Don’t give up John says. Trust me. I saw him die. And then I ate breakfast with him.
There is no one else worth giving your whole life to, worth longing to become more like.
Everything he said is true. He is light. He is life.
As real as he was in the flesh – that his followers saw and touched – even more real is his return. He is coming back. And “every eye will see him”, the scriptures say. Then we will know that we were not foolish, naïve or deluded for following Him.
Ask Jesus to keep speaking to you, encouraging you, guiding you and strengthening you through his Holy Spirit.
Ask Him to help you be an encouragement to others who are struggling, doubting or questioning their faith.
Ask Him to protect you from the lies of the Enemy who is trying to undermine your faith.
Pray specifically for someone you know who is struggling, doubting or who has unfollowed completely. Pray for grace, for mercy, for God to keep on pursuing them with his kindness and love.
Take two minutes to be in silence, inviting Jesus to speak any words of life or truth to you today.