Summary: The 5 stumbling blocks that keep us from the life God intends for us.
Living In Certainty and Confidence
July 16, 2006
Last Sunday I took an unexpected detour from my notes and shared with you a comment that the Graduating Class of Covenant Bible College in 1994 heard from one of their instructors.
To the room of excited graduates, students who had just spent 9 months studying the Bible and its teachings, student who had traveled throughout Canada and parts of the United States doing ministry projects and concerts. To these alive, devoted and growing students came words similar to these, "Students, some would say that you are now entering the real world - the world of work, politics, finance, education, cars, houses, hospitals, athletics. But this isn’t exactly true. This world, what you have felt and experienced for the last 9 months is the real world. This God-drenched. This God-immersed experience is the real world.
Where you are headed, what you are leaving here to enter is a place that needs what you have and are."
Whenever we are on a spiritual mountaintop like these graduates were. Whenever we are feeling close to God, drawn near to Him like those of us who work at VBS are. It is the human desire to want to prolong it. To want to put down roots there. To set up camp and settle in. But most mountaintops that I’ve visited tend to be quite desolate. There are few if any trees. Little if any grass, seldom any water. We were not meant to live on mountaintops. No, instead these experiences often become the fuel, the motivation for us to live in the valley.
For the last 2 months or so, we have been reading through the book of 1st John. This book that finds itself between the 2 larger books also written by John - the books of Revelation and John.
These 2 larger books, 1 that tells how things will end up and the other, how Jesus’ life began are the mountaintop/mountain peak experiences and our text these weeks has been a text to help us live well in the valley.
1 John was written to a people who were seeking to live with God in the realities of work, illness, kids, errands and the like. John the writer of these words wants to give his readers hope for the present and hope for the future and so he writes these words that we have been studying.
In today’s text, a section titled "concluding remarks" in our pew Bibles; John wants to make it clear what God’s people are up against and what our response is to be.
Like my high school basketball coach. A coach who watched game tapes of our opposing teams to learn what we would soon face in the upcoming games and then created a strategy in order to pursue victory; so too is John doing this for us in these final 8 verses of 1st John. He tells us what we are up against and what our response will be.
1st - What are we up against?
I count 5 different things that John identifies as being against the way of God. 5 barriers, obstacles, stumbling blocks.
Death - v. 16
Sin - v. 16, 17
The Evil One - v. 18
The world under the control of the evil one - v. 19
Idols - v. 21
As John has done throughout this book, he is identifying, pointing out not tourist attractions for we spiritual pilgrims but instead potholes, detours and other things that keep us from the life God intents for us.
If these become the focus.
If these become our instructors.
If these become too prevalent in our life, we end up under their influence and heading down the road of destruction.
The five potholes if you will, that John identifies for us in closing verses are again (and I’ve listed them on the back of your bulletin)
The evil one
The world under the control of the evil one
These are at odds with God’s desire for us.
Now notice something.
John doesn’t identify these and say,
"Good luck. I hope you make it around these."
"I hope you make it over these."
John doesn’t name what we are up against and then retreat into his fortified bunker, where it is safe.
Instead he tells us of
The gifts of God.
The graces of God that are offered
given as gifts to those who are Jesus followers.
These gifts and these graces are not just out of this world’s realities but can be present ones as well.
John mentions 4:
In opposition to death is eternal life. v. 13
In opposition to sin is the reality that people do not have to continue to sin. v. 18
In opposition to the evil one, idols and the world is