Guilt and Shame (1 John 2:28)

Have you ever felt ashamed of yourself for something you have done? Several weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me the picture of a Beagle puppy that looks like he’s been caught in the act of wetting the rug. If there’s a picture next to the word shame in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure it’s of this puppy’s face. His head is bowed and his ears are lowered, but his eyes look up with a plea for understanding and forgiveness. I’m sure that all of us have been caught in the act at some point in our lives—whatever “the … Continue reading Guilt and Shame (1 John 2:28)

Competing Spiritualities (1 John 2:26-27)

Is there any way to judge between competing spiritualities? Since the 1960s, there has been a significant growth of “alternative spiritualities” in America, including traditional eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as nontraditional New Age and metaphysical practices. These alternative spiritualities have not been silent about Jesus. Traditional Christianity teaches that Jesus is God’s unique Son (John 1:14, 18); alternative spiritualities that we can become God’s sons and daughters in the same sense as Jesus is. Christianity teaches that Jesus is the exclusive means by which God saves the world (John 14:6); alternative spiritualities that he is … Continue reading Competing Spiritualities (1 John 2:26-27)

Keep the Faith! (1 John 2:24-25)

Is faith in Jesus a one-time event or an ongoing commitment? In my ministry as a pastor, I have seen people’s faith wax and wane. I know of one young man, for example, who gave his heart to Jesus, became actively involved in church, and even participated in summer-long missions projects, only to reject Christianity in his college years. I could multiply stories like his, but I think you get the point. You also probably know people who at one point in their lives professed faith in Christ but now do not. Their faith, which once waxed, has now waned … Continue reading Keep the Faith! (1 John 2:24-25)

The Real Jesus (1 John 2:20-23)

Who is the real Jesus? Last year [this was written in 2007], just in time for Easter, the National Geographic Society published its translation of The Gospel of Judas, a second century Gnostic writing that makes a hero out of Judas Iscariot. According to this so-called gospel, Judas betrayed Jesus at Jesus’ behest, in order to liberate the divine spark of Jesus’ soul from its imprisonment in Jesus’ body. No reputable scholar that I know of thinks The Gospel of Judas is historically accurate.[1] But some scholars—not to mention many ordinary readers—think that historically accurate information about Jesus is hard … Continue reading The Real Jesus (1 John 2:20-23)

Love Jesus, Love His Church (1 John 2:19)

Is it ever okay to leave your church? When my father pastored a church in the 1970s and 80s, he calculated that 25-30% of the church left it every year. It had nothing to do with his preaching, which was excellent. Instead, the area in which he ministered was full of young, upwardly mobile families, whose jobs moved them around quite a bit. The other churches in the area had a similar rate of turnover. Recently, an email correspondent of mine shared the story of why she left her mainline Protestant church. Although she had a long history in the … Continue reading Love Jesus, Love His Church (1 John 2:19)

Under an Eternal Deadline (1 John 2:18)

As a writer, I am asked occasionally to submit an article for publication. Attached to these requests is a deadline, usually not far off. Having a deadline helps me focus my research and writing so that I can turn out a good article in a short time. According to 1 John 2:18, we all live under the deadline of eternity. Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know that it is the last hour. Let’s interpret this verse one phrase … Continue reading Under an Eternal Deadline (1 John 2:18)

If God Loves the World, Why Can’t We? (1 John 2:15-17)

According to John 3:16, God “loved the world” enough to give his Son for its salvation. But according to 1 John 2:15, Christians are forbidden to “love the world or anything in the world.” If God loves the world, why can’t we? In his commentary on 1 John, Colin G. Kruse helps us answer this question by teasing out four different senses of the word world in 1 John: The word kosmos occurs 23 times in 1 John, and its meaning varies according to context. In one place it means the natural world (3:17), in several places it bears a … Continue reading If God Loves the World, Why Can’t We? (1 John 2:15-17)

The Multigenerational Church (1 John 2:12-14)

The church is (and ought to be) a multigenerational community. Unfortunately, powerful forces in our society tend to pull the generations apart. But the gospel has a unique power to bring them back together again. What are some of the powerful social forces that pull the generations apart? The first is space. Many people don’t live near their extended families. They are cut off from day-to-day relationships with their grandparents, parents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Instead, they live in suburban neighborhoods where most of the people are strangers who occupy the same demographic niche as they do. The … Continue reading The Multigenerational Church (1 John 2:12-14)

Are Christians Haters? (1 John 2:9-11)

I once had a conversation with a Christian man about interracial marriage. He strongly opposed such marriages and argued that our church should not publicly condone them. (As part of a series on marriage, we had photographed couples in the church and showed their pictures during a worship service. Several of the couples were interracial.) I replied that there was no room in the church for bigotry because God created us all equally and offers salvation to all freely. Which one of us was right? The man offered a laundry list of arguments about the evils of interracial marriage. (They … Continue reading Are Christians Haters? (1 John 2:9-11)

The Old New Command (1 John 2:7-8)

When I was in fifth grade, my best friend Darren Norris gave me J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for my birthday. In the fall season, when the rain begins to pour, you can find me in an easy chair, re-reading the pages of my second favorite book. Every time, I find something new to ponder in this old, familiar story. There is an older, more familiar story that is my favorite. It is the gospel, the good news about Jesus. In 1 John 2:7-8, John writes about this story, which despite its age, always seems fresh, … Continue reading The Old New Command (1 John 2:7-8)