Living a Balanced Life
(An In-Depth Study of First John)
1 John 5:18-21
As John’s letter to the church comes to a close the question of how to live a more balanced life comes into clear focus. John never addresses the clock or the calendar. He never offers self-help type advice toward dividing your time between family and career. As we have discovered through our journey of First John, true meaningful change in our lives together can never be achieved without addressing the Son of God; the Gospel.
John taught us that balance begins with the truth. Without the truth we never deal with reality. Those who had left the church did so because they strayed from what they heard from the very beginning; the apostolic doctrine regarding Christ. Without the truth, these individuals found themselves in the wrong place at all the wrong times. If we live without the truth we too will be out of balance with no hope, no matter how much we tinker with our calendars and attitudes.
Establishing that foundation, John utilizes the rest of the letter laying the track on which a balanced life, like a train, moves forward. Like parallel rails fit for a locomotive, two rails run all the way though this letter; assurance and vigilance. John offers absolute assurance to everyone who is found walking in the light. The main idea of First John can be summed up like this: Assurance of eternal life—based on obedience—empowered by love for God. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren” (3:14). “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe his commandments; for this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (5:2, 3). John’s threefold thrust is assurance of eternal life, conditioned upon obedience, empowered by love for God.
Love for God, allegiance to God, trust in God is the heartbeat of this great letter, and balance for life is found only in these things. God’s commandments are not burdensome to obey if you love him. If you delight in his promises to do you good and trust that he is real and genuine toward you, then doing what he commands will be the very thing you want to do. Being sure of this, we trust that he will never command us to do anything that will be for our ruin. He only commands us to do what is best for us. A recurring theme that weaves its way throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation goes like this, “You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it maybe well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:33). If you love God, if you trust that it will be well with you, obeying God’s commandments will not be burdensome, but the very thing you want to do.
So it is no surprise after all this, John would leave these words ringing in his readers ears: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” There are mighty strokes of assurance as we close this letter. There are also stern warnings to remain vigilant in a world under the control of the evil one.
God Our Rescue (vs 18)
- Eden (Genesis 3:16)
- Noah and the Ark (Genesis 7:1)
- Exodus (Exodus 2:23-25)
- God’s Name (Proverbs 18:10)
- Job (Job 19:25)
The Child of God:
- Protected by Jesus
- Does not continue in sin
- Satan cannot touch
Two Kingdoms (vs 19)
The Kingdom of God
- God is greater (1 John 4:4)
- Victory is already won (John 12:31)
The Kingdom of Satan
- Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
- Satan snatches the Word away from hearers (Matthew 13:4-19)
- Satan does deceptive signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24)
Assurance Grounded in Christ (vs 20)
Given us understanding
We know the truth
Reject Falsehood (vs 21)
Idolatry – Valuing any thing or person more than God.
Balance is achieved by changing values
Values change only when the heart changes
Only the touch of God changes a heart
No, not the movie…
Our first shipment of children’s clothing and school supplies sent to the orphanage in Madagascar! Very exciting… special thanks to Sharon Dowis for gathering up all the items for us.
James 1:27 (ESV)
27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
The Uniqueness of Motherhood
The Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting) is valued as priceless because it is unique. It can be argued that it is the most studied and appreciated piece of artwork ever. In a way, the painting was a unique mother’s day gift. The woman in the painting is Lisa Gherardini. Lisa was from a well-known family known through Tuscany and Florence and married to Francesco Del Giocondo who was a very wealthy silk merchant. It was her husband who commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to complete the work just after the turn of the 16th century. (c. 1504-1519) The work was to celebrate the completion of their new home and the birth of their second son. (Of course, Mother’s Day is unique to the US and was first celebrated in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia)
The Mona Lisa is unique for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons, of course, is the artist himself. Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the most recognized artist in the world. Not only was Da Vinci an artist, but he was also a scientist, inventor, and a doctor. Another reason for its uniqueness is the medium used to create the work. The Mona Lisa is an oil painting, with a cottonwood panel as the surface. It is unique in that most paintings are commissioned as oil on canvas, but the cottonwood panel is part of what has attributed to the fame of the painting. Because of the medium used for the image, the Mona Lisa has survived for six centuries without ever having been restored. The last unique feature I’ll mention about the Mona Lisa is the detail with which Leonardo da Vinci painted her hands, eyes, and lips. These anatomically correct features are one of the identifiable marks of this period of history in art.
The Mona Lisa is not without her enemies. Twice in the 20th century alone she was attacked. Once, in 1956, she sustained severe damage when attacked with acid by a vandal. That same year, another vandal threw a rock at her, removing a chip of paint from near her elbow. It was later painted over. The Mona Lisa now rests safely in the Louvre in Paris, France under bulletproof glass as a means of protection.
By now you may be asking, “What do all these facts about art have to do with Mother’s Day?” Well, in an even greater act of creation than Leonardo painting the Mona Lisa, God created mother Eve. Just like the Mona Lisa, Eve’s value and uniqueness, like ALL mothers, is derived from her creator. She is unique in that God selected just the proper medium with which to create. And create He did! What beauty! What value! The details in her hands, eyes, and lips not only surpass the Mona Lisa, but they become more defined, beautiful, and valuable as the years pass.
Motherhood, like the Mona Lisa, is not without her enemies. Popular culture is doing its best to throw acid and rocks at God’s masterpiece. Motherhood, like the Mona Lisa, must be protected. There is no need to change even a single brush stroke of the Master’s hand. Motherhood was created on purpose, for a purpose. It is unique. It is priceless.
Living a Balanced Life
(An In-Depth Study of First John)
Abundant Life, Prayer and the Word
1 John 5:14-17
During one of Jesus’ conversations with the religious leaders in Jerusalem he presented them with this purpose statement: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b) Eternal and abundant life is a profound promise. In order to live this life Jesus called abundant, one must be certain about the status of their relationship with the Savior.
In the verses just prior to this week’s text, John delivers the good news of the certainty of eternal life. If you are a child of God you are certain of eternal life. If your life is being lived in the light, in the likeness of Christ, loving unconditionally and giving sacrificially you can be certain that your real home, your eternal home is the Kingdom of God!
Now John gives us a look at another major aspect of our abundant life in Christ; God hears our prayers! To many American Christians, prayer is much like a Christmas list. Like letters to Santa, their prayers are simply lists of stuff they ‘know’ will make life better. They treat prayer as if it were the little bell one uses to call the butler to come fluff their pillow. Prayer never informs God. It is never the case that something is happening in our lives that God is to busy or distracted to see. Jesus taught us that God knows what we need even before we ask. (Matthew 6:8)
On rare occasions, we see accounts of people praying and God changing the course of their lives. Examples include Hezekiah’s prayer by which God extended his life by 15 years. (Isaiah 38:5) Jesus taught His disciples to pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1-8) However, the overwhelming conclusion one sees in all of Scripture regarding prayer is that prayer changes us. When John states that we receive whatever we ask in prayer he doesn’t leave us with the understanding that sinful requests will be delivered. There is a condition in this promise. If we ask ‘according to His will’ God hears us. (vs 14) And we can only ask according to His will if our will comes into alignment with God’s. This is one of the most amazing results of prayer. As we pray, we begin to hear and understand God’s will. In other words, prayer is less like a bell to call for the butler, and more like a war-time walkie-talkie. When the sergeant radios headquarters to report that the battle is getting intense, he is strengthened and renewed when he hears the General’s reply; “Stand firm, we almost have them surrounded, victory is minutes away!” Prayer changes us.
Prayer is Confidence (vs 14-15)
- Intimate relationship (1 John 4:16)
- Our wills align (with God)
- Members of the Family doing the will of the Father
Prayer is Power (vs 16-17)
- Prayer is to the Christian as Spinach is to Popeye (Joshua 1:6)
- Importance of Family [Body of Christ]
- Prayer’s power over a Brother’s sin
- Don’t waste prayer? [on sin that leads to death]
- ALL wrongdoing is sin [sin is not defined by government or culture]
Life Balance is always attained by Truth
Prayer and the Word is the ONLY source of Truth
The ONLY way not to live dirty and stupid is Prayer and the Word
Prayer and the Word is a means of Grace obtained in private AND in corporate