17. Children?

Meditations in 1 John : 17 : Are we Children?

1 John  2:12    I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.

I don’t know if when we get to heaven, we’ll meet people we read about in the Bible. If I meet John I want to ask him why he wasn’t more clear in these next three verses, having caused commentators to scratch around with a variety of interpretations. Some suggest ‘children’ means all Christians and then ‘fathers’ and ‘young men’ (in the next verse) mean different levels of spirituality. Others suggest all three indicate different levels of spirituality. We’ll we’re going to meditate on them one by one and see what comes out.

At the start of this chapter John addresses his readers there as ‘dear children’, (2:1) which is what leads some to suggest chapter 1 is a general introduction explaining the need for the Gospel while chapter 2 moves on to speak to Christians specifically. Whatever the truth, this aged apostle speaks to his readers there from an elderly, pastoral standpoint, with a heart of concern for all God’s people.

Of course in the opening chapter of his Gospel, John wrote, to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12,13)  Belief, he says, brings about the right to be called children of God, and we are children of God because we are born of His Spirit (see also Jn 3:5) In the beginning of the third chapter of this letter, he writes, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 Jn 3:1) so if you are a Christian, have no doubts, you are a child of God!

Now what is the definition of a child? It is a young, young person, possibly recently born.  We have, we have already noted, been born again by God’s Holy Spirit; He made us anew when we received His Spirit.  Jesus taught, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mk 10:15). What does that mean? Children are childlike in belief; they find it easy to believe. They are simple and straight forward in their belief. That is how we are to be. Take, for instance, that really challenging verse at the Last Supper: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.” (Jn 14:12) The worldly, humanistic, rational mind tries to reason how this can be. Simple, childlike faith, says, “Right, if that’s what you say, Lord, what do you want me to do?” The apostle Peter was the classic example of this when he stepped out of the boat at Jesus’ simple instruction, “Come!” and walked on water. “You can’t do that,” the rational mind argues. No of course you can’t – unless Jesus enables you to!

But sometimes children worry. They don’t have the big picture and so they worry. Young Christians sometimes worry because, like Peter on the Lakewhen he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink. It’s a major learning curve being a young Christian, but young Christians also need reassurance about their behaviour, which is why John emphasizes, for “children”, your “sins have been forgiven.” Young Christians need to be taught and then reminded of the basics of faith and the most basic and fundamental issue of the Christian faith is that Jesus has died for all our sins, past, present and future, and we have been forgiven. This came up earlier in 1 Jn 1:9 with the assurance that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and (will) purify us from all unrighteousness.” That is the fundamental heart of our faith and it opens the door up for us to fellowship more fully with the Father and not give up when we fail, but to pick ourselves up, confess our failure, receive afresh the forgiveness and cleansing that comes through the Cross, and then get on with what He next has for us.

The young believer has to learn that it’s not a case of getting up and trying to be a better person in our own strength or trying to impress God with how good we are. No, instead we are honest about our weaknesses or vulnerabilities and recognize that we need the ongoing working of the Holy Spirit within is to enable us to walk out in faith – as children of God.

It is all about relationship with the Father. John continues a few words on, “I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.” (2:13c)  Not only have we been born of the Father but now our life is one of knowing Him. That, we as Christians, may take for granted, but the rest of the world does not know it. Appreciate it!

It may be worth distinguishing between ‘children’ and ‘sons’ for often in the New Testament we are called ‘sons’ (women included). The reason behind this is that culturally inIsrael, a son (and especially the oldest son) took on the work of the father, carried on the family business.  ‘Children’ is just a recognition of our basic relationship to God our Father. When we start talking about ‘sons’ and ‘sonship’ we are talking about coming into a mature relationship with the Father whereby He shares his heart with us and we enter more fully into the ongoing relationship with Him whereby we perform the works of the kingdom, carrying on His business, as He leads us by His Spirit. That is the wonder of what we have entered into. We start out being little children, but the whole New Testament teaching is that we learn and we grow and we enter more and more into the purposes of the Father. Hallelujah!

50. Stand Firm

Ephesians Meditations No.50

Eph  6:13,14 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place

We gave a hint in the previous meditation of where Paul was going with this. It impacts a key understanding for the Christian which radically affects their security. Many people don’t understand the enemy’s limitations – or what goes on in their heads!  We are actually going to deal with the subject of the armour in the next meditation and so, although it is mentioned in the verses above, we want to put it aside for the moment and focus on a different aspect of these verses. It is all about perspective.

You know about perspective don’t you? It’s not a ‘perspective’ that an artist or architect worries about, the depth of the picture; this is more about where you view the thing from. Now many Christians view the Christian life as something that is to be struggled for. They see it as a battle to achieve a place of love, joy, peace etc. etc., a place where they are loved, a place where they feel secure, a place of forgiveness, a place where there is no condemnation. In other words it is a case of having to work for all those things and the battle is to wrestle those things from the enemy. Now that ‘perspective’ is completely wrong!

The truth comes out in one word that Paul uses three times in these verses: ‘stand‘. ‘Stand‘ here means hold onto what IS yours now! I pictured it in the previous meditation as imagining that the Christian life that you have inherited is a plot of land. It is yours and the enemy has no access to it. If you are walking with the Lord with an open heart to Him then the enemy is allowed no access to your life. The worst he can do is scream at you ‘over the fence’. If you get thoughts that are negative, demeaning and which you find pull you down, recognise the source of these – it is him calling over the fence. He’s not there on your plot of land – he’s not allowed in. He can only shout at you from over the fence and you hear his words in your mind. But they are his words, not yours, so don’t put up with them.

The apostle James gave us the answer: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) Give yourself over to God and when the enemy turns up with his lies, turn away from him and turn to the Lord (who IS on your plot of land – because His Holy Spirit lives in you), share it with Him, worship Him, speaks the truth about your life, and then turn back to the enemy and tell him where to go! Then get on in peace and quiet enjoying your inheritance.

The apostle Peter also spoke in these terms: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” (1 Pet 5:8,9)  He knew that Satan comes and roars over the fence at us sometimes and tells you how powerful he is or how powerful his minions are. Just remind him of the truth: “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4) God is so infinitely greater than a single fallen angel (because that is all Satan is) so don’t let the enemy try and tell you anything to the contrary.

Let’s look at what Paul says here: “Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” What are we to do? Put on the full or complete armour that God HAS given us, which we’ll consider in the next meditation. When will we particularly need it? “When the day of evil comes” or when a particularly bad day comes. We do have such days. We feel tired or weak, people are nasty or unkind to us, and the enemy leans over the fence and screams at us about what a failure we are. Something goes wrong with the car or with a member of the family and stuff starts to build up. Things go wrong at work or you are involved in an accident driving in to work. All these things contribute to a bad or evil day. At such times the battle for your mind is on, and at such times you need to rely upon ‘the armour’. But when you do, what will be the outcome? You will “be able to stand your ground.” You will remind yourself who you are, a child of God, you will remind yourself that you are loved of God and that His Spirit lives in you, and you will remind yourself that His grace is there for you, and you will tell the enemy where to go, and you will shine in the darkness!

And then? “And after you have done everything, to stand.” This second ‘stand‘ implies ‘keep on standing’, keep on holding your ground. Having withstood the onslaught you hang on to the godly and righteous life that Jesus has given you, refusing to let go of it, refusing to let darkness enter it. Do you remember a verse we’ve spoken of a number of times previously: he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Col 1:13).  It’s the same imagery, of land transference. We’ve been taken out of the land where Satan rules, where darkness (evil) prevails and we’ve been transferred to the land where Jesus reigns and (by inference) light (goodness) prevails. So, says Paul a third time, “Stand firm then,” and goes on to launch into descriptions of what the armour is, and we’ll see that in the next meditation. So, today, whatever the enemy says or does, hold on to who you are, and the life you’ve been given. Jesus earned it and it IS yours now – today, this moment! Enjoy it!