September 21, 2008

The Power of Abiding in Jesus - Sep 21, 2008

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”.

“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.

Have you read any of these? Maybe you know some other books that might fit in the genre.

Self-help books are great sellers. There are a lot of them out there. It seems that they go to seed right on the shelves. If one is successful a crop of sequels spring up, often under the same author. The “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” spawns “The Eighth Habit of Highly Effective People”. And then “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens”. And the accompanying workbook. The daily calendar. The DVD. The class.

As I was scanning the shelves of self-help books I had to snicker when I saw one entitled, “Self-Help Books: Why America Keeps Reading Them.” And then I saw one called “Writing Successful Self-Help and How-to Books”. A self help book on writing self-help books. In my cynical mind I couldn’t help but wonder how many authors of “self-help” books are really only interested in helping themselves.

Sometimes what a person needs is simpler than a book. Simpler than seven habits. Sometimes the help we need doesn’t have much to do with “self” at all.

The apostle John wrote the book we call “John” later than the other Gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke. You can tell that John had read their words. He skips over many of the accounts that the other Gospels record.

Each of the Gospels were written with the same purpose - to show people that Jesus is the Savior sent from God to take away the sins of the world and open the gates of heaven for all people. But each Gospel was also written with other purposes in mind.

At the time John wrote his Gospel, there was a group of people called the Gnostics who were attempting to mix the message of Christ with pagan philosophy. The Gnostics taught that Jesus was only a man. This robbed Jesus of His power as the divine Savior. The Gnostics went further, saying that they had the answer to opening heaven’s gates. You needed to have a special knowledge, or “Gnosis” in the Greek, and only they could teach you what that was.

The Gnostics were the self-appointed self-help authors for the followers of Jesus.

But their message wasn’t God’s message, so the Holy Spirit caused John to write the Gospel of John that emphasizes the truth that Jesus is both Man and God. And that He alone has the power to cleanse people of sin and place them in a real relationship with the God of the Universe.

John also wrote some small letters that were preserved by the Holy Spirit for our learning. In the letter we call First John, John wrote to Christians about the real power that exists in simply trusting in Jesus.

The theme for our mediation today is, “The Power of Abiding in Jesus”.

SERMON READING: 1 John 2:24-29 (NASB)

24As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
26These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
28Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
29If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

Many self help books start with a number of principles. Seven habits. Five fundamentals. Three attitudes. Whatever. The plan that the author sets forth can be somewhat simple or highly complex.

John wrote to Christians because they already knew the message of Jesus, and were under attack from people trying to trick them into putting their hope somewhere else. John says, “Don’t do it!” He reminded the Christians of the original message that they had heard, and how it doesn’t change.

Here’s what John said right before what we just read.

1 John 2:20-24 (NASB)

20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
24As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.

The message that they heard from the beginning was simple. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus the man was also Jesus the eternal Son of God. Jesus the carpenter was also the Holy One of God on through whom the sins of the world were taken away.

The people John wrote to had believed this message when they heard it. And their faith connected them to God the Son and God the Father making eternal life theirs.

It was a simple message, but a powerful one. There were no steps to follow. Just faith. He did it for me.

The simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus is powerful in itself. To tell someone that they need to do something isn’t all that powerful. To honestly say that what was needed has already been done, that’s revolutionary.

If Jesus were to write a “self-help” book for sinners, it would be really short. It would read, “I did it. Your sins are forgiven.”

Like the Christians that John wrote to, we are very familiar with this message. So well perhaps, that we fail to recognize its power. When we come to God and honestly confess our sins to Him, He forgives them. He says our sins are gone. Earlier in his letter John wrote:

1 John 1:9 (NIV)

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Even if other people don’t or won’t forgive us, God does, and we can move on knowing we are forgiven before our Creator.

When we feel angry at someone who has sinned against us, Jesus reminds us, “I didn’t just die for you, I died for them too. Now forgive them like I forgave them, and like I forgave you.”

When we feel lonely, Jesus says, “I’m here. Speak to me. I’m alive from the dead, remember? After I died on the cross for you, I rose from the tomb for you too. I’m alive to listen. I’m alive to talk to you.”

It’s all to easy for Christians to think that nobody wants to hear us tell them that “Jesus died for their sins”. They already know that’s what we Christians believe. But what we need to show them is what that really means for them.

One thing that John reminds us is that being in Christ means having eternal life. If we think that this life is all there is, then it’s easy for this life to take on more weight than it deserves on our minds. Midlife crises kick in. Money and pleasure become more important than they really are.

But when this life is laid on the supersized ruler of never ending life with God, then we see things in the right perspective. Abiding in Christ alters the way we view our whole lifetime. It alters our whole way of thinking. Abiding in Christ frees us up to live in ways that are impossible without Him. We are free to live our lives with our eyes on the greater prize of heaven. Our feet are freed up to move with energy and our hands with generosity.

Imagine for a moment that you are enrolled in a college physics class. On the day of the first lecture, out walks your professor, and you recognize him. It’s Albert Einstein! But for some reason nobody else recognizes him but you. Maybe his hair wasn’t quite so crazy or something. As the semester moves along you pay attention. You study hard. You do the assignments. You ask lots of questions. You try to help the other students to understand how important this guy really is! How smart he really is! How they should pay attention to what he’s lecturing about because he knows his stuff!

That’s you Christian. You know the eternal Son of God. He’s smarter than Einstein, and more important too! He actually makes a real difference in people’s lives. He offers them forgiveness of sins that opens the doors of heaven. He offers them forgiveness of sins that opens the doors to a really meaningful life in the here and now.

There is power in Jesus my friends. Power that Satan wants us to forget about. Power that flows from a simple message, not a nine step process or a five step attitude adjustment. Jesus is the Christ! And wrapped up in Him is the answer to every one of life’s problems.

Some of the more popular self-help gurus go on tour. They have their own workbooks, DVD’s and even local coaches who will teach you how to use their methods for a price. Their advice is so important, but it’s complex, so it helps to have a teacher to teach you how to use it.

That’s what the Gnostic teachers were saying to the Christians of John’s time. They were saying, “You Christians have Jesus, and that’s great – wonderful teacher that Jesus – but He didn’t tell you everything. Let us fill you in with the “special knowledge” that will really get give you a meaningful life and a ticket to heaven.”

But John says, “You don’t need anyone to teach you! You’ve got already got teacher who lives in your heart!”

The Christians that John wrote to had been baptized with more than just water. Through the word of God they had been anointed with the Holy Spirit. This is the “Anointing” that John was talking about when he wrote:

1 John 2:20 (NASB)

20But you have an anointing from the Holy One…

This Anointing was from Jesus because it was Jesus who gave the command for the apostles to baptize people in the Name of the Triune God when they went out to share the Savior with the world. The Anointing that John’s readers had experienced was an anointing with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit had never left them.

The Gnostic teachers said, “You need our insight”. John said, “What for? We’ve got the Holy Spirit inside us.” You have been baptized also. You have been anointed with the Holy Spirit. Daily He’s seeking to show you how to use what God tells you on Sunday. Constantly He’s speaking from within your heart. Continually He’s helping you understand what you read in the Bible and how to live what you read in the Word of the True God. The Holy Spirit is teaching you how to put on the teachings of Christ like clothing.

Back in Martin Luther’s time, the Roman Catholic church taught that ordinary people should not read the Bible because they are not capable of understanding the things of God properly. Without the Holy Spirit that’s true. We wouldn’t be able to understand the Bible properly. But the Holy Spirit is alive and active both in the Bible and in the hearts of those who are trusting in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the permanent personal teacher who dwells in the hearts of Jesus’ followers.

Do we learn from pastors? Sure. Do we benefit from fellowship with other believers? Definitely. Because the Holy Spirit works in these people too! Do we need the deep wisdom that comes from man’s imagination? Not really. What we need is the Holy Spirit working through His Word.

The Holy Spirit knows what He is doing. He continually draws us back to one thing. The Old Message. The message that doesn’t change. The Holy Spirit always brings us back to the Jesus Message. To the Gospel. The Good News of sins forgiven full and free, because of God’s crucified and risen Son. Because Jesus is the Christ.

1 John 2:27 (NASB)

27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

The Holy Spirit brings us back to the cross because there our guilt is washed away. There we see God’s love for us in action. There we learn what grace really means. There we both receive forgiveness freely, and there we receive the power to give forgiveness freely to those we know.

The power of abiding in Jesus comes to us through the simple message that Jesus is the Christ. But all that message means for our daily life is taught to us through the Holy Spirit in an ongoing way. Theologians are nice and all, but the Holy Spirit shines brighter.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying that I would rather you pour over the Word of God for an hour every day of the week and skip church on Sunday. Okay, I don’t really want you to skip church on Sunday, but I know that the Holy Spirit doesn’t need ME to communicate to you effectively. The more raw time you have with the Word of Jesus coursing over your mind and ears, the more the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see the power of Jesus, and the path that He has laid out for you to walk in this life.

When I prepare for Sunday worship, I usually try to find the threads of teaching that are woven through the readings that are preselected for our worship. This week it seemed to me that the common thread in our readings was God a the All-powerful Judge and destroyer.

In Nahum (Old Testament reading: Nahum 1:1-8) God raged against Nineveh. In the Psalm (Psalm of the Day: Psalm 138) David said that God stretches out His hand against the enemies of His people. Even in the Gospel reading (Gospel reading: Luke 6:17-19) where Jesus was healing people He was destroying. He was casting out demons and destroying the sicknesses of the people. And that thread of God as the All-mighty destroyer is woven into our Sermon reading too.

1 John 2:28 (NASB)

28Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.

One of the things that self-help books sometimes offer is instant results. If you only follow their seven rules you’ll see changes in your life almost immediately. It shouldn’t surprise us that we actually do see immediate results from abiding in Jesus. As we trust in Him we experience results that really matter.

The first of the results of abiding in Jesus is confidence. When Christians are conscious of the fact that they are resting in the bomb shelter of God’s own Son, that gives us confidence! When Jesus returns to judge the world, He’d not going to turn on His own! Those who are abiding in Jesus will rise up with confidence to meet Jesus! The Bible says that we’ll be changed in an instant and we’ll actually rise up into the sky with all the resurrected believers to meet Jesus in the sky!

The unbelievers, however, are described in a much different way. In visions of the end they are portrayed as calling on the hills and mountains to fall on them and hide them from Jesus. They are full of shame and fear.

John tells the believers that he’s writing to, “Take it serious folks! There are people trying to fool you into walking away from Christ. Don’t do it. Look to the future. Remain in Christ. Trust in the One who shed sweat, tears and blood for you. Jesus is the Christ. Abide in Him. Have confidence in His promises now, so that you’ll have confidence when He appears then.

The other immediate results of abiding in Christ are shown in our last verse.

1 John 2:29 (NASB)

29If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

The power of abiding in Jesus is seen in the lives of those who abide in Him. Those who trust in Him. Those who look to Jesus for all things. Christians are Christ-like. Yeah, they’re sinners. No doubt few of them would openly toot their own horn and say, “Look at me, I’m so Christ-like”. But they are. Their righteousness shines in their daily living. In their refusal to gossip. In their patience with others. In their willingness to share. In their willingness to help. In their constant prayer. In their dedication to hearing God’s Word.

Maybe you’re feeling a little guilty right now because you haven’t been doing so great in these areas lately. If that’s the case, remember the thing that not only shines in the Christian’s life, but DEFINES the Christian’s life. Remember the power of abiding in Jesus. The power that courses down us and takes all our sins away as we kneel before His wooden throne, utterly humbled by our failures to be like Him.

The power of abiding in Jesus is found in four words. Jesus is the Christ. He’s the Holy One of God. He’s the Savior. We’re just the saved. We’re the saved.

There’s power in abiding in Jesus, because Jesus is the Christ.


The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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