John 15:26–27 (NRSV)
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
John 16:4–15 (NRSV)
4 But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
The Work of the Spirit
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
For the past hundred years there has been a great deal of focus on the Spirit of God. At times there has been so much focus on the Spirit that we often lose sight of who the Spirit of God truly is. The Spirit is very important but if we do not keep the Spirit in context we can find ourselves chasing after something that has already left us far behind. Who is the Spirit of God and what is her purpose? I as this because there are probably as many definitions as there are denominations, and one of the very first schisms in the church largely dealt with the Spirit.
This week the purpose of the Spirit became clearer to me than it has ever before, mainly because of the term Advocate. Most of us have been taught that the term advocate was a legal term and for the most part it is, but probably not exactly how we would imagine. When we begin to imagine legal terms and positions most of us quickly visualize the courtroom scenes of a judge sitting in a high seat facing attorneys for the prosecution and the defense. When we look at this scene we often imagine ourselves sitting on the side of the defense with the accuser or Satan sitting on the prosecution side. So when we read terms like advocate we often begin to think that the advocate is sitting next to us defending our case before the judge. That is often the image that I saw, but that began to change this week. This week I was called as a witness to court, which happens often in my line of work, but something happened while there that has never happened before. I had an advocate appointed to me. The role of the advocate was to assist me with any question that I might have in preparation for the trial. He introduced me to the attorney, and assisted the attorney in helping me become as good of a witness as I could be. This opened my eyes to the role and responsibility of the Spirit of God.
The Spirit is the advocate, not the attorney. The Spirit is the liaison between, speaking for me if I am confused, translating things to me if I do not understand, and helping prepare me to face the trial set before me. The advocate works with us but we do not control the advocate. The advocate’s primary responsibility is to bring the people they are appointed to assist to the attorney and to assist the attorney to equip those involved to perform what is necessary. The Spirit is the advocate.
This opens my eyes in so many ways. Knowing this has changed my thinking and heightened my understanding. It has lifted the fog surrounding areas of confusion, because the spirit is the advocate. Who is the spirit and what is her role? Her role is to connect, interpret, help, advise, and to assist humanity to align with the needs of God.
How many of us have had skewed images of the Spirit? How often do we misunderstand the role the Spirit of God plays in relation to our faith? How often do we misalign our faith to where we end up walking in a direction contrary to the desires of God? This can all be a result of misunderstanding the role and responsibility of the Spirit.
The image of the advocate something unique to the writings of John. I think this is important to note because so much of theology or our understanding of God gains the most support by the writings of John. John, the disciple Jesus loved, writes from a perspective that differs from the other gospel writers because he focuses primarily on the relational aspects of our faith. The various roles that the personalities of God play are largely derived from the writings of John, and that is why the term advocate is so important.
From the beginning of the Friends movement we have been very aware of the role of the Spirit in our faith. Our meetings for worship are centered on listening to the Spirit and following where the Spirit leads us. In many ways the Friends movement paved the way for much of the Pentecostal movement that followed over a century after, because we were very aware that there was an active divine interaction between mankind and God. But there is a danger in focusing too closely to the Spirit.
This almost seems like a heretical thing to say but I believe it is true, and this is why the term advocate is so important. If all we do is focus on the Spirit where is our faith grounded? Jesus describes the Spirit as wind blowing, we know it is there but we do not know where it comes from or where it is going. The Irish monks would describe the spirit as the wild goose, something that could be chased but very hard if not impossible to catch. The Spirit is fluid, formless, and something that cannot be defined. Just when we think we have caught it, the Spirit flies just out of our reach. But the Spirit is important, because the Spirit is the advocate.
Let us go back to the image of the courtroom. For most of us we are on the defense side, we are accused and stand before the judge hoping for grace. We have an image that is engrained in our minds, we are sinners in the hands of an angry God, we are worms, and a host of other ideas. Consider for a moment that image you have in your mind. Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment…” Jesus goes away, it is Jesus that stands before the judge in this image, and the advocate is with us in the world. The advocate is working with us directing us away from the world’s understandings and pointing us to the truth. But this is the part that flips things on end, “[Prove the world wrong] about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” Who is condemned? Who is the one on defense? It is not us on trial, but the ruler of the world.
This really changes everything that we thought we knew for so many years, in our individualistic world view we believe that it is us on trial, that we are front and center, but we are not the ones on trial. The ruler of the world is, the accuser, or Satan. It is the job of the defense to shift blame off of the accused and place that accusation onto another, the accused become the accuser. The condemned tries to distract those around them from the truth, convincing those around them that it is not them that are guilty but someone else. They wish to confuse us about sin, righteousness, and judgment. But the advocate will guide us in truth.
This is where theology comes into play. Jesus is in the center of theology and must be. Sin is anything that distracts us from the truth of Christ. The truth of Christ is that He is fully man and fully God. He is the fulfillment of humanity, the perfect example and expression of what humanity should be. Anything that keeps us from living the life that Christ showed us is sin. And the life that Jesus showed us was a life that had a rhythm of prayer, worship, and service to others. A life dedicated to building, maintaining, and repairing relationships between God and humankind. The accused accuser wishes to distract us from that, he wishes to divide us and separate us from the truth getting us look away from Christ. He wants us to withdraw from the big picture and focus on the little things. This is sin or that is sin, when in reality sin is the broken relationship.
The accused accuser then proceeds to redefine righteousness. But what is righteousness? This is a bit foggy in the passage but Jesus says, “I am going to the Father.” That one statement does give us some direction in defining righteousness. Righteousness is heading in the right direction, toward the Father. So often we want to define righteousness as being right or living right, but this does not necessarily mean we are heading in the correct direction. Jesus gave many examples in his ministry where the religious were doing everything right according to the law and were far from righteousness. The rich young ruler was a prime example. He came to Jesus asking what he must do to gain the kingdom. Jesus listed off all the legal obligations for righteousness and the young man said I have done all of this. Then Jesus said you lack one thing, sell all your possessions, give it to the poor and follow me. There is something about that that just does not sit well with us, he did everything right yet he was not on the right path. He lacked one thing and it was that his life was not directed toward the things of the Father. He was not following in the footsteps of Jesus. He could not give up his image of righteousness for the truth of righteousness. The accused accuser wants to cause us to focus on the images of righteousness instead of the path of righteousness. He will do whatever he can to get us to step off the path, following Jesus to the Father.
This brings us to judgement. Who is being judged and why? The ability to place blame somewhere else has plagued humanity since the fall, but even that was an action of redirected blame. We judge others to redirect the attention off of our own short comings. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and the serpent blamed God. And we are each caught in the middle of the blame game. This is the method of ruler of the world, casting blame on others, providing to the masses a scape goat to direct our anger and hate. Claiming that our problems are not our own but caused by someone or something else, and all would be perfect if we just abolished the one that is blamed. The world is full of this, just scroll through Facebook for a minute and you will see a number of postings casting blame and demanding action to rid the world of the scapegoat. Big oil is the problem, Wal-Mart is the problem, ISIS is the problem, the Church is the problem, environmentalists are the problem, Obama is the problem, homosexuals are the problem, police are the problem, unions are the problem, or government is the problem. Each and every one of those issues are a problem but they are the problem because they distract us from the underlying reality that we want to refocus blame because we have been influenced by the ruler of the world, we have join in the accusations of the accused accuser.
But the Spirit is the advocate. The advocate works as the liaison guiding us in the direction we need to go to fulfill the task set before us. The Spirit is like the wind, we know it is there but we do not know where it comes from or where it is going. But we can lift our sail and let it carry us the direction we should go. The Spirit leads us down the right path, it teaches us the holy rhythms of life, and directs us to Christ who is going to the Father. The spirit gives gifts that assist us in doing the work set before us, and that work is to guide everyone around us into truth, the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment. And that truth is revealed to us through the life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Who is the Spirit, what is the Spirit’s role? The Spirit is the advocate, the one that brings us to the one that stands before the judge. The Spirit is the one that guides us to the path of the teacher and encourages us to continue down that path toward the Father. The Spirit is the force that connects us to Christ who stands for us. The Spirit is the one that helps us become witnesses for the truth, in a world that is ruled by deception.
As we enter this time of open worship and communion as Friends, let us celebrate that we are connected to God through this powerful force he provided for us. And let us embrace the Spirit as our ever present advocate directing us down the pathway with Christ to the Father who loves us so much that he sent his only son not to condemn the world but to give us life.
1 John 5:9–13 (NRSV)
9 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. 10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
What is salvation for? This question is the very question that we consider every Wednesday evening. I may sound like a pretty silly question but just consider it for a moment…What is our salvation for? Many answers may come to mind, but as those answers enter your mind again ask the question what is salvation for?
I ask this question because it is one that has been ricocheting around in my mind for several years in one form or another. The immediate response that comes to mind is, “so I can go to Heaven…” well actually that is probably a bit of a cleaned up super-spiritual answer because actually that answer really is, “so I don’t go to hell.” If we are honest with ourselves, this is the first answer that came to our minds. For many of us that very answer is the beginning point of our spiritual journey. But if that is all that salvation is for why exactly are we here?
If all salvation is for is to get us to heaven there were be very little reason for us to come every, or nearly every Sunday to worship. Yet here we are on yet another Sunday singing praises, reading scriptures, and centering down to listen to the spirit of God. Yet so often that is the message that the church pushes out to the world, have faith in God and avoid hell. Because of this over and over again we hear calls for people to come down to the altar to pray to receive Jesus as their savior. What then? We are saved but what good is it, is it just a life insurance policy that we purchase and wait for it to mature so we can collect the benefits later on?
No that is not salvation. That is sales and marketing. That is packaging up the gospel to make the consumer feel like they got a great deal for minimal cost. It is simple, concise, and a bargain. Yet often that is how we try to present the good news to the people of the world. The reality is that answer is not fully wrong, but it is not full either. It is a shell of the gospel, hollow and shallow.
What is salvation for, what is the Gospel for, for that matter what is the Gospel? Questions like this run through everyone’s minds at one point or another throughout their spiritual journeys, because questions like this arise out of a life lived. Every moment we live events occur that cause reactions, at times the reactions that we experience are very pleasant while at other moments these events break us down at the knees causing us to reconsider whatever we once thought we believed. What is salvation for?
Throughout John’s epistle he has had to deal with these sorts of questions. He is writing a letter to people that had a belief that God was going to establish a kingdom among them within their lifetime. That Jesus was ascended to heaven to prepare not just a place for them, but that he was going to prepare the armies of God to overthrow the powers of the world immediately and establish a new order and kingdom that would have no end. The problem was that the first disciples, the ones that witnessed Jesus and walked with him as he performed many amazing feats, were all slowly falling to various forms of persecution. So faith was being questioned, what is this thing we call faith for, if it was not what they first expected?
John tells us listen to the testimonies. Listen to the stories, the accounts of those around us. Listen and observe because in those words we will begin to see a glimpse of what God is doing and the beginning of the answers. The story of our lives are powerful because our story is one that no one can really question, it is simply what we experience and observed around us. We may not interpret the events the same way as the one speaking to us, but we cannot say that it is legend or tall tale because it is personal, and we were not there. But words of women and men can only go so far. Testimony is a court term, it brings to mind images of a court room where lawyers are coming forward asking questions and an individual is recounting observations as they remember them. Our story is powerful because it is what was seen, it can be used by other to assist them in making judgments, but testimonies can only go so far, because it is simply one piece of evidence. One piece of evidence does not make the case because the evidence only points to the truth. The truth lies deeper within.
John then says that God also give a testimony, and that testimony is even greater than all the testimonies of mankind. The testimony of God has been collected throughout the ages and continues to be presented for the ages to come. It is the testimony that dwell in the pages of scripture and in the hearts of humanity. Which leads us to something else. The heart. When the ancients spoke of the heart they did not have the same knowledge as we do today, to them the heart was an abstract concept they knew it was deep within, and that life was connected to it but they did not know that it was an organ made of muscle tissues that was used to circulate blood throughout the body to provide the various systems the nutrients and elements to live. To the ancients the heart was simply the essence of life. That part deep within that gave purpose and meaning, it was your truest self.
The testimony of God dwells in the truest self of humanity, the image of God. John says that if we do not believe we are calling God a liar, because we are rejecting that testimony. Which bring many more questions up, but continues to revolve around a central theme. What is salvation for and along with it what is life for.
Throughout the New Testament we hear eternal, everlasting, and abundant life spoken about. It is easy for us to get hung up on one particular meaning of those words. I would like us to consider a different meaning today vitality, or essence. “God gave us vitality, meaningful, essences of life, through his son.” He gives us true foundational, meaningful, actual life, life that endures through the trials, continues through every trial that can be thrown at us. Something that through the darkest or brightest situations life that can be filled with joy. This is a very different type of life than that life that the world has to offer. It is a life that goes beyond just what we experience today or even our life time but endures though ages and ages. It is humanity. It is creation singing the praises of its creator dancing with God through the symphony of life.
You see often we do not see the larger picture, we only see what is right us. That is how the world views life, just what is before us. This narrowed view of life damns so many things. When we fail to embrace the fullness of life with Christ we limit what God can do through us. We have limited resources, limited time, limited energy, limited everything we can only operate in a very small area because that is life according to the world. How can we minister within our limits? We cannot. We cannot bring a testimony of peace and nonviolence to the cities of America because the job is too large and we are too small. We cannot end the hideousness of human trafficking because we are just a small group and there are millions of people that are already in bondage. We cannot stop wars because we do not have enough time to negotiate peace. We cannot….
The limits we have are vast. We cannot do anything because we are trapped within a worldly view of life. Life that is only here now, life that is not enduring, that does not continue, that will end when we end. But John and the apostles were bearing witness and testifying to a life that was much different. Jesus came announcing that the kingdom of God was at hand. Immediately people began attach that statement to their worldly understanding of kingdoms and life. He said that within that generation he would usher in that kingdom riding upon the clouds, which brings many more ideas and understandings. John then writes his letter at the closing of that generation say it is true, the kingdom is here the only reason we do not see it is our eyes are not focused in the right places. We cannot see the vastness of the enduring and everlasting life because we are looking though eyes that are trapped in the bondages of the temporal world. But the kingdom is here, it is all around us.
That kingdom is right in front of us. God is calling us, writing his commands and desires on our hearts urging us to embrace the enduring life right here and right now. He is calling us to salvation through him so that we can bring that enduring life to the world that is stuck in its own limitations. What would happen if we did not live constrained by the limits of the world? What if we did not believe that time was a limiting factor? Would we pursue the things that God has written deep down in the core of our being? What if we believed that the resurrected Christ could build his kingdom where we are now and allow that work to endure throughout the ages? Would we allow the limits of this world to hinder us from living the enduring life that is found in Christ?
The reality is that life endures with or without us. It has endured for thousands if not millions of years. And it will continue well beyond what we perceive to be our life time. So why then are we focusing on the short term things instead of the things that endure? Jesus showed us how to focus on the enduring things. The things that matter are found in Prayer, worship and service to others. That rhythm of life, the lifestyle that Jesus lived while he walked the earth and called twelve men to participate in. Jesus did not see the limitation of these twelve men but he saw the eternal, enduring, abundant life that was living at the core. He showed them how to nourish that life, how to steadily pursue the goal and the task set before them, joyfully enduring whatever the world threw at them. And the kingdom has come. It begins when we enter into that lifestyle and start living with Christ and then sharing our lives with those around us. Letting the evidence of God’s testimony be expressed through our actions and words.
John then writes, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Everything we do endures, just as our spirit endures with Christ. The question remains what is our salvation for? It is for us to propel the kingdom of God into the ages that come after us. It is for us to live in lives with the endurance of Christ at the center of what we do. It is for us to boldly take on the various lifestyles of the world that are limiting humanity from experiencing the life that God has testified lives within the deepest recesses of our hearts. He wants us to live our lives totally for him. Taking for ourselves the lifestyle He showed us so that through us and the enduring lives that began centuries ago that continues through us we will see his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Our salvation is not for us, but it is for Him and for the world he created.
Faith Conquers the World
5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Testimony concerning the Son of God
6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.
Over the course of the years many groups among the religious have made lists of who are Christian and who are not. It might surprise many about who are on which list. For example the author CS Lewis is considered by some as being a heretic because of his belief in purgatory and the possibility of evolution explaining aspects of creation, on this same list the reformer Martin Luther was considered a non-Christian because he raised questions about the numbers and figures in scripture. That is right the great reformer that took a stand for scripture over tradition questioned aspects of scripture and as a result some today question his very faith because of what? Honesty about doubts, differing philosophies about how God may have brought the world about or what the afterlife may be like? Great leaders today like Billy Graham are brought into question over differences of theology. Theology can only get us so far, because theology is the study of God and God is beyond our comprehension. So we must tread softly when we make claims in regard to God, we must always leave space for the possibility of a skewed human perspective.
These lists, denominations, and theological perspectives can all lead to division. Who is right, who is wrong? Which church is correct or which perspective is the most accurate? If we make a claim in any direction we risk demonizing an entire segment of the faithful and history. This is one of the reasons why Friends are very slow in making decisions and why they leave room within their theological statements, because when emotions are raised and arguments are made we can lose perspective and possibly follow our own wills instead of the will of God.
But how do we know God? How do we know which way to turn or what truth is? From the dawn of Christianity there have been different perspectives that have pulled on the faithful. Throughout the epistles we can read about various struggles that the early church faced. Every era of church history has faced something that threatens to pull the church apart or propel it into the next age. Today is no different. John wrote during one of those periods of history that faced these very things. There were people that proposed that the true faith was found only in following the ancient rites of the Jewish religion, others claimed that there was secret knowledge that could only be received by initiation and participation in secret ceremonies. We know the struggles because each epistle tells us about these struggles. John, the last apostle, writes to those that were faced with the end of an era. They have watched the apostles one by one pass to death, and as they witnessed this they began to question their faith. Things were not going exactly as they thought they would, and the ones that founded the church were no longer there to direct their steps. They lived through persecutions, they witnessed dehumanizing violence. They had also saw the miraculous, healings of diseases, people freed from bondages, and the feeding of thousands. Yet darkness always seemed to be gaining on them.
As darkness approached some began to rise up prophets calling people to walk one way or another, people began seek answers to direct their paths, yet they only saw a faint light. They cried out to God wondering if they had missed something, they began to listen to the words of man instead of waiting on the Spirit of God, and John their last apostle watched as a unified church began to divide and fragment. He watched as people of the church began to rely on their own wisdom instead of that of God. He watched and just as Jesus wept he too began to write through his tears because so many were seeking and lost yet were looking in the wrong direction.
Very quickly people began to question the faith, they deemed it in their own minds that they must do more at very least they should follow the Torah, and the fact that darkness was creeping into the world around them must mean that they must do more. John says to them, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” Yes that is what we said the prophets begin to argue, we must follow the law. But what are the commandments that John speaks of? They begin to consider the words that John the elder once spoke when he was younger. The words that he heard the Lord speak.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. (John 15:9-17 NRSV)
Abide in the love of God. Abide is an interesting word, because it is one that is so difficult to do. It means to remain in, to tarry, to stay in, and to dwell. So John lovingly reminds them of the commands of Jesus to wait, and dwell in the love of God. This is the most difficult thing for mankind to do because we like action. To sit around and wait is so contrary to our nature. “We must do something…anything to keep the darkness at bay.” The prophets say to the people. Yet John tells them, “abide, just wait, remember the command of our Lord. Love one another. It is not burdensome. You do not have to add to it, just remain and love.”
Just wait…just love…just do what Jesus has commanded. Do not worry about the darkness closing in around us it is merely an illusion, as long as we abide we will overcome the world. John can say this because he has seen it. He has seen the power of God working all around him. He had witnessed God coming into the lives of Jew and Gentile and totally changing everything. He has seen cities totally devoted to the worship of idols become cities earnestly seeking the one true living God. He was most likely writing this letter in the city of Ephesus, a city that contained one of the largest temples in the world devoted to the roman god Diana, and the city that Jesus spoke to in his Revelation about their zeal for truth and right doctrine. John saw many things. He saw these things because he learned the holy rhythm of Christ. A lifestyle devoted to worship, prayer, and service to others. Loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit and living the love of Christ with others.
When people participate in this holy lifestyle they begin to see change at first with one person, then multiplying as each person actively lives and participates. One by one as people turn to the lifestyle of Christ the trappings of the world begin to fall away, the darkness is overcome by the light and faith conquers the world. But is all begins with abiding in the love of God. Sitting in the love of Christ. Waiting for God and listening to His voice.
We do not have to have all the right answers, we do not have to have a theology that can answer every question of God. We do not have to save the world, because that is not our job. Jesus is the one that conquers the world. He is the one who came by water and blood, who was born and crucified for our salvation and who rose again to lift all mankind back into the glory of God. It is Jesus who does the work, we are only required to abide in him and love those he leads us to.
John encourages us to adopt the lifestyle the holy rhythm Jesus taught us to live for a reason. When we move away from this rhythm we begin to rely on our own strength and our own minds. We begin to think that we are the ones that are doing the work, that we are the ones that conquer the world. I said that Jesus said that Ephesus was seekers of truth and right doctrine, they were the strongest of the seven churches of Asia because they were earnest in their seeking of what was right, but Jesus spoke against them because they lost their first love. They pulled away from the holy rhythm and began to trust themselves and little by little they fell away from Christ and as they began to fall away darkness began to take hold of them again. So they began to seek more truth and right doctrine only to have more darkness close in, because they did not abide first, they did not abide in love.
What does this say about us today? We are living on the edge, many of us see darkness all around us. We see the world conquering the church instead of the church conquering the world. We feel as if we need take things into our own hands to speak out and force righteousness onto the people all around us. I ask one thing as we set off down this road, how long have we remained in the love of God today, yesterday, the day before, and how long will we abide in his love tomorrow? Have we adopted first a rhythm of life that reflects Christ a lifestyle that mimics Christ in all we do before we go out to conquer darkness? Have we been people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others? I ask because John says that that is the lifestyle that will conquer the world and bring light into the darkness. Abide in love first.
The writings of John are important to us as Friends. We derive our name from the words that he pinned at the closing of the era of Church history. Our original name The Religious Society of Friends means that our religion is a society based on becoming Friends with God. The only way for this to happen is for us to abide first and then live that love with others. We base our entire belief system on the idea that we can know where God leads us if we abide in His love, and then we can respond accordingly. Ephesus sought truth above all else, they sought righteousness and were great at exposing the false teachings of many, but they lacked one thing love. They left their first love behind as they moved forward into the world they were called to minister to. They walked into the darkness without carrying the light of Christ. Their eagerness to be right above all else caused them to live in infamy throughout church history because they forgot the main point. Love conquers the world.
As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends, I encourage each of us to examine our lives and our lifestyles are we abiding in love or are we walking into the darkness without our first love? Are we focusing on being right in our own minds or are we allowing the Spirit to work through us? Are we making lists or are we encouraging all we meet to abide in the love of God where they are and walking with them as they begin to enter into the holy rhythm of Christ’s life? Do we as followers of Christ fear the darkness of the world or do we trust that Jesus Christ can overcome the world just as he overcame the grave? Do we truly believe and live in the power of the resurrection of Christ?