Tag Archives: 1 John 3

Diagnosis with a Twist of Lyme–1 John 3:24

Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. –1 John 3:24

A year or so back, Penny had the pleasure of lyme disease. If you’ve never experienced this tick-borne illness, then save yourself the trouble and trust me. It’s one to skip. She had all manner of stiffness and general yuck. At first the doctors–bless their hearts, they try–settled on arthritis as her affliction. Penny protested that she had not suffered from arthritis for several years and that her symptoms sounded a good deal like what she’d read of lyme disease. No matter. She had arthritis. (This same doctor might have recommended me for a hysterectomy.)

This hasty diagnosis bought the bacteria a couple of weeks to reproduce and settle in. Eventually, another doctor–one we no longer use, I might add–listened to all of Penny’s complaints and said, “I think that might be lyme disease” in a tone that seemed to say “why didn’t you think of that sooner.”

We had to practically lay siege to the lab and doctor’s office in order to get the test results back, but when they came, they confirmed what she had suspected for several weeks: lyme disease.

Unlike some diseases, lyme disease does not simply keep bothering you until treat it. This is one that will progressively worsen. Catch it very quickly and it’s a non-event. Let it run for months and you’re in for some very bad effects. Happily, Penny was closer to the beginning than the end.

I’m not entirely sure how the test for lyme disease or any other ailment works. My understanding is that the lab techs perform some sort of analysis to determine if some substance is present that indicates the critter involved in the illness. For example, if I were performing a test to see if my daughter Alyson were around, I’d probe the trash cans for Sonic Drive-in trash. That’s a tip-off to her presence.

How, however, do you do a test for the Spirit of God? Is there a blood test indicating the Spirit and therefore the indwelling of God? John would seem to suggest that ability, yet I’ve never been offered such a test. Wouldn’t that be a nifty test for a prospective Sunday School teacher?

Just as bacteria leave behind chemical markers and Alyson leaves behind tater tot wrappers, the Holy Spirit provides evidence of its presence, evidence that plays out in our lives. Inwardly, that evidence involves the sense of conviction and duty that comes to a believer. Outwardly, it should be manifest by a holy life and a string of loving actions.

As certain as I am that the Holy Spirit is within me, I sometimes wonder if that presence is truly evident to the outside world, to my friends, my students, and my family. If I were accused of being a Christian, would there be sufficient evidence to convict me. Do I present the symptoms of a spirit-filled life? I’ll leave you with that question today.

It’s So Simple–1 John 3:23

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. –1 John 3:23

I love this time of the year. As you read this, I’ll be finished with exams and ready to turn in grades on Friday. As I write it, I have another week to go. Regardless, I love this time of year. Soon, these students will be going away, and I’ll never have to look at them again.

But I also hate this time of year. No, I’m not going to get all sentimental on you. While I do actually like a good number of my students, by the end of the term, I’m ready to see the backs of them, at least for a while. The reason I hate this time of the semester is because of the silly questions. Here’s one, from an email two days ago:

I just make sure that if i have done annotated bibliography, which means I don’t need to do the final assignment. Is it right?

No, it’s not right. The online course says that isn’t right. The course overview sheet I asked everyone to print out back in January says that isn’t right. My weekly (or more often) emails say that isn’t right! What more do I have to do to get through to these people?

If it were only one silly question, I’d be okay with it, but there are many. Granted, it could be worse. I could have to really work for a living, but it does make me hate–okay, maybe dread–this time of year.

My online course is really simple. Start at the beginning and follow the directions. Keep hitting “next” until you reach the point that says you’re done. That’s it. But these students just insist on making it complicated. Or they refuse to read the instructions and try to find their way alone.

Happily, our relationship with Christ is just as simple.  We have to do two things:

  1. Believe in Jesus.
  2. Love each other.

That’s really easy. I don’t have to figure out which way to turn to face Mecca. I don’t have to discover which foods are kosher. I needn’t give exceptional respect to cattle. There’s no particular language that must be spoken or pilgrimage that must be made. Christianity is simple, which is good, since humans are notoriously bad at following directions.

Now is My Way Clear–1 John 3:21-22

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. –1 John 3:21-22

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that yesterday, after speaking of the danger of taking a verse out of context, I proceeded to take the first of these two verses out of context and write on what it does not say. Verse 21, we can clearly see now, does not talk primarily (if at all) about our confidence in salvation before God. It talks of our confidence to stand before God and ask for blessings.

I won’t apologize for my writing yesterday, since those words did correspond well with Romans 8:1, but I thought I should point out my sneakiness.

As I sit here in my office at school, I look to my left and see a movie poster for T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, one of my favorite plays of all time. In this play, set in 1170, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Beckett, has been causing trouble for King Henry II of England. Beckett knows that his life is in peril at the hands of the king’s minions; thus, he wonders how to respond. After being visited by four tempters, Beckett stands firm, refusing to do the wrong thing, or even for the right thing for the wrong reason. “Now is my way clear; now is the meaning plain,” he says, as the last tempter falls away.

Thomas a Beckett did not ask God to send four knights who would plunge their swords into his flesh before the high altar in Canterbury Cathedral. Does that mean that he could not stand with confidence before God and ask for deliverance? Yes and no.

Beckett received something far better than what he wanted. His momentary pains, horrible as they must have been, passed into martyrdom. No sane person, I think, prays for martyrdom. But then no person–sane or otherwise–has the clarity of vision to know what to ask for. I believe that John indicates  here that the efficacy of our prayers relates to the purity of our hearts. If my heart were completely pure, standing completely unblemished before God, then it would see the absolute purest vision and ask for it. My heart, however, is only moderately pure–redeemed but still flawed by sin’s residual effects. I can stand with some confidence before God and ask, but I realize that at times the obstacle of sin will prevent me from asking for (or even recognizing) what is best for me.

Therefore, uncondemned, I can stand confident before God, confident in His willingness to deliver things sometimes greater than what I have the vision to request.

No Condemnation–1 John 3:21

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God. –1 John 3:21

A year ago, I got right with my digestive tract. I started eating very light, cutting nearly all meat and dairy out and pigging out on twigs and sprouts. For the summer of 2007, I went nearly 100% vegan. From April until Christmas, I lost forty pounds. I got off my blood pressure medicine. I could leap tall buildings with a single bound.

This morning, along with a hefty jolt of caffeine, I ate two–not one but two–greasy, awful breakfast sandwiches from QuikTrip. Wasn’t it last June that I preached to Olivia that there was virtually nothing good that you could buy at QuikTrip? Now here I am: I love Big Brother. I’m eating fare that’s not just meat and dairy, but sausage and eggs and drippy cheese. It’s so good, but my heart–perhaps literally in this case–is condemning me. Almost the moment the food–and it was tasty food–passed my lips, I felt guilty, condemned.

In Romans 8:1, Paul says that there is no condemnation for us when we are in Christ. Here John says that if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in our standing before God. But what if our hearts do condemn us?

It seems to me that today’s verse and the one from Romans illustrate the danger of taking a verse of Scripture out of context. In the Romans case, the verse isn’t even a complete sentence, and in this case, it only has its full meaning in light of the long series of arguments preceding it.

John, it seems to me, has been spending most of the preceding chapters convincing guilt-ridden people that they have good standing with God. He’s combating those who would add works to the grace of the Gospel. Paul, too, is arguing for a Gospel of grace, but he’s not arguing for absolute license. The fact that I feel bad for eating fatty food this morning does not negate my lack of condemnation before God.

Since there is no condemnation for me, regardless of what I stuff in my mouth or what my hands perform, am I more or less responsible for my actions? If I were condemned, the responsibility would be shifted to a punishing authority. Like a condemned prisoner, my life would not be my own. Since I am not condemned, my life belongs to me. My responsibility to make the most of it, therefore, is all the greater.

Louder than Words–1 John 3:18-20

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. –1 John 3:18-20

I woke up yesterday agitated, bothered that everything in my life seemed just a bit off kilter. My relationships were rocky. My eating is off the tracks. My exercise is non-existent. I’m behind on my grading. Everything’s just a bit messed up.

Part of me wanted to leap out of bed and make a lengthy to-do list. Supplemented by a list of resolutions, that might do the trick.

Part of me wanted to pull the covers over my head and sleep the day away.

Part of me–or maybe something independent of me–recognized the answer why I still lay in the bed. “Get my relationship with God right,” this little voice told me, “and all the other things will work themselves out.”

“Yeah! That’s it,” I assured myself as my feet hit the floor. “I’m going to get my relationship with God right. Then life will be peachy.”

Within two hours, life stunk. I’d yelled at two of my kids and talked sharply to my wife. I topped a hearty biscuits-and-gravy breakfast off with two bismarks. Nothing was going right.

“Why?” I shouted as I stood outside in a driving rainstorm, shaking my fist at the sky. (Okay, that setting I just added for effect.) “Why didn’t things work out?”

No sooner did those questions cross the threshold of my mind than I realized the error of my day. Simply saying that I would get my relationship with God right wasn’t enough. I had to actually do something about it, a something that I couldn’t just wave my hands and make true in the act of rolling out of bed.

Of course, I’m pleased that my lapses don’t foul up my standing with God. Doing right doesn’t make me more redeemed, but it’s not worthless either. It’s like my citizenship in the United States, I think. If I fail to salute the flag properly, that doesn’t take away my citizenship. But saluting the flag, singing “God Bless America,” and otherwise living out my citizenship remind me of the land of my birth. Similarly, my devotion to God helps me to remember whose I am. In the end, that’s all that matters.