Testimony and the Love of Christ

It is common knowledge among preachers and pastors that “Nobody really cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”    As is the case with EVERY true believer, I am a sinner saved by Grace. For reasons only He knows,  He called me to Him out of the desert. He had allowed me to partake of the pleasures of the World, born and raised in the freest nation on earth during a time of the greatest spiritual rebellion since Babel; a rebellion that just continues to gain momentum with each passing day. Sex, Drugs, and Rock-and-Roll, was the mantra of my youth. I didn’t need God!  Religion was the opiate of the masses!  What was right was what felt good at the time!  I was the Master of my fate and the Captain of my soul!  AND, I could NOT have been MORE WRONG.
Oh, I knew there was something not quite right.  Its one of those nagging things in the very back of your mind, that any distraction takes your attention away from, but it seemed always there when all was quiet.  You can’t put your finger on it so you fill your life with distractions— SCUBA, work, learning to fly, anything.  Living in Las Vegas, gambling, partaking of the LIFE, at 24 Roe-v-Wade became law of the land and that was FINE with me, women absolutely should have the right to CHOOSE!  And, it had the benefit of NO RESPONSIBILITY for ME! You know, just in case!
Fell in with bikers and drugs.  But that nagging feeling would not go away.  Every time the noise died down even a little it was there. Moved around, played music, other women.  Still believed I could do whatever I wanted – Master of my fate, you know!  In my forties, in the midst of trying to recover from my third failed marriage,  my brother told me I needed to go to church! I was pretty low and what he said resonated somewhere and I certainly had nothing to lose, so I went. I went a few times.  The nagging took hold and agreed with my brother!  But there was something else:  I looked around and saw the state of the church, that churches just didn’t seem to agree on MUCH!  So it became a quest to know just what it meant to BE a Christian! I began to study. I met and married my wife, Patricia.  The study became intense.  I thought doctrine was the answer.  I thought that one could not be a Christian unless one BELIEVED the RIGHT things.  For years the more I learned the more at odds I became with “accepted doctrine”!  I put Patricia through a lot of hardship and angst because of my convictions about church.   I just couldn’t understand why, if Christians had the Word of eternal life,  was there so much bickering and disagreement.  Why so much animosity between denominations?  I had to keep studying, trying to figure it out!
This had gone on for nearly 20 years!  Then, not so long ago, I was fired from my position as adult Sunday School teacher because I asked the wrong questions.  I was asking people who claimed to believe IN God to actually BELIEVE what He said.  That was not helpful.  The experience of getting fired was cathartic!  It finally opened my eyes to something I had been missing all along.  I had been laboring under the assumption that what was plain as day to me should be just as plain to everyone else!  You know what happens when you assume something?  The results are usually not what you had hoped, are they.  Anyway, I just couldn’t believe it was that HARD!  When in reality, what I came to understand fairly early on and simply couldn’t ACCEPT until much, much later, was that it wasn’t just hard,  it was and IS IMPOSSIBLE!  Here is why!  GOD’S WAYS ARE NOT OUR WAYS!!!
Please open your Bibles to Second John.  The Book of Second John.
R.C. Sproul relates an experience in seminary about a professor assigning his class a task; find 25 applications for a truth expressed in a particular verse of Scripture.  Over the weekend they worked and struggled.  Each member found one or two, they got together and brainstormed and finally in the wee hours of Monday morning just before class they  got the 25.  In class they turned in the results and the professor said GOOD JOB, you did great,  now, find 25 more!  The Truth is ALWAYS the Truth, but the APPLICATION OF IT can be different in a myriad of ways!  We must be prepared to accept that there IS a difference between Truth and its application in our individual lives! Man makes plans, but GOD ORDERS HIS STEPS!
Second John.
1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;
2 For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.
3 Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.
5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
12 Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.
May God bless the reading of His Word.
John is speaking as a pastor who loves you, the Church, in Truth.  He is not alone.  EVERYONE who knows the Truth THAT HAS TAKEN UP PERMANENT RESIDENCE IN US, loves us.  Jesus said I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, NO ONE comes to the Father BUT BY ME!  HE is the Truth that has taken up permanent residence in EVERY TRUE BELIEVER!  So everyone who knows the Truth that has taken up permanent residence in us loves you, whether they display it the way you want it at the moment, OR NOT!
John Prays for grace and mercy and peace to be with us from The Father and The Son. He is very happy that many of the congregation are diligently living out the Truth exactly as commanded.
Then reminds us that this is not a new commandment but simply a repetition of the original, that we love one another as He has loved us.  But that love is NOT all warm and fuzzy, cuddly, huggie, and sentimental feelings of well wishing!  NO.  The love of Jesus set His face like FLINT toward Jerusalem where betrayal and the CROSS was waiting!

Following His Commandments has NOTHING to do with warm and fuzzy!  Those feelings in Truth, can only be the result of KNOWING you pleased HIM, just as HE was able to sacrifice Himself for US because HE, more than ANYTHING, was here to do the WILL of the Father Who sent Him!  Jesus did so many acts of kindness and mercy, performed so many miraculous deeds that John himself said there wasn’t enough room in the world to contain all the books if they were all written down!  But when asked by Pilate why He came what did He say?
John 18:37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
You know, when I tell my wife I didn’t hear what she said, ESPECIALLY when she knows its something I don’t particularly want to hear, she tells me I have selective hearing!! Imagine that!  Accusing me of DELIBERATELY not hearing what she said!  I certainly NEVER have that problem when she says something I WANT to hear!  How often are we like that with Christ?
John continues, warning us NOT to be like those who are deceived, because  it IS possible for us to be deceived.  The Message translation has it this way:  Don’t Walk Out on God
7 There are a lot of smooth-talking charlatans loose in the world who refuse to believe that Jesus Christ was truly human, a flesh-and-blood human being. Give them their true title: Deceiver! Antichrist!

8-9 And be very careful around them so you don’t lose out on what we’ve worked so diligently in together; I want you to get every reward you have coming to you. ANYONE WHO GETS SO PROGRESSIVE IN HIS THINKING THAT HE WALKS OUT ON THE TEACHING OF CHRIST, WALKS OUT ON GOD. But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.
10-11 If anyone shows up who doesn’t hold to this teaching, don’t invite him in and give him the run of the place. That would just give him a platform to perpetuate his evil ways, making you his partner.
So here it is, the LIMIT to which we are to give acceptance to anyone or tolerate in our midst, ANYONE who denies the teaching of Jesus Christ.  Anyone who denies that Christ was truly a flesh- and-blood human being is a deceiver and an anti-Christ.  But that is not the only deceiver or way of being deceived.  There are those who are willing to tolerate ALL manner of evil within the church in the name of LOVE!  But John tells us THAT IS NOT LOVE! That is denying the doctrine of Christ!
Love is speaking the Truth with COMPASSION and REFUSING to become COMPLICIT by TOLERATING what Christ called sin.  He fashioned a whip of cords and DROVE the money changers OUT of the TEMPLE!  He expressed His love for us and them, in terms of our ETERNAL LIVES, NOT just for expediency or our comfort and ease in the here and now!  Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not advocating we all pick up a whip and start flailing!  But we can, WE MUST start speaking the TRUTH against the LIES of today’s culture, where ever and by whomever it confronts us!  Silence IS CONSENT!  Indifference is DEATH!  If we are not salt and light, WHO WILL BE?
ETERNAL LIFE is what John is telling us we need to focus on when we define LOVE for one another as members of the Body and for  neighbors, friends and fellow human beings as we carry out the GREAT COMMISSION!
John said there was much more but would not commit it to paper and ink but instead would relate it face to face.  Christ had COMPASSION WITHOUT COMPLICITY!  The world we live in today is spiraling out of control.  We are told we can no longer live according to our conscience but must accept everyone as they CLAIM TO BE!  Even when that flies in the face of biological truth, moral truth, and or physical truth!  We who profess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior must NOT deny the REVEALED TRUTH OF GOD.  We are IN the world but we are not to consider ourselves to be OF the world; pilgrims and sojourners in a land NOT our own!  We are to be accepting of the FACT that claiming kinship with Jesus Christ is opening the door to SHARING in His SUFFERING!  I really cannot think of any families that have not been touched by divorce, drug abuse, sexual immorality of any stripe, hate, bigotry, crime, this list that brings emotional and physical pain can go on and on.  We who claim Christ know there is no temptation, no pain, no condition that He does not KNOW and share with us.  He HAS compassion for us in our weakness but He will NOT be complicit in tolerating evil for the short term benefit of feeling good or subverting TRUTH!  He showed His love for the money changers by demanding they recognize the evil they were perpetrating and where they were doing it!   A father who refuses to chasten his children HATES his children!  He claimed all Israel as His children.  He chastened that group and He spoke the TRUTH to the Pharisees, who HATED HIM for it! Speaking the Truth to one who will not hear it, especially when that someone is close to us is very painful.  For us, as professing Christians, compassionately speaking the truth both to those who will and those who WON’T listen has ETERNAL repercussions!  He has proven His love for us, let US prove our love for HIM by HIS rule:  If you love Me, follow My commandments!  Speak the Truth with compassion in love, but never be indifferent to Doctrine. Don’t let it slide.  For us, indifference is heresy!    A very wise man once told me, when you are up to your backside in alligators, its hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp!  When every fiber of your being is screaming ‘Take the Easy Way’ we have to remember CHRIST DIDN’T!  Those who see professing a belief in Christ as having their ticket punched and life in heaven assured may not be as happy when they come to those Pearly Gates as they thought they were going to be.  Matthew Henry said, “Those who teach by their doctrine must teach by their LIFE, or else they pull down with one hand what they build up with the other.”
Please remember Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.”  If you have NOT confessed Jesus Christ as YOUR personal Lord and Savior NOW is the time.  No one is guaranteed tomorrow.

Ours is not a free ride and our God is a jealous God.  Oh, and the answer to my question, what DOES it mean to be a Christian?  It means one TRULY loves Christ enough to obey His Commandments!  Failing, Falling, Forgiving and being Forgiven, and living Humbly is the life to which we are called but never, ever indifference and complicity.

At Cana, Jesus told His mother that His time had not yet come.  It would seem that she knew better.  So in closing I would ask you to think about this:  Do you each day have an opportunity to speak a truth or set an example that you shirk or ignore?  Then claim “I didn’t know!” or “I wish I had…”.  First John says “We KNOW!”  As a Christian, What DO .  YOU . KNOW?

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