In this message, Timothy Ateek walks through 1 John and challenges Christians to reflect on our lives in light of the gospel by examining what we believe, how we live, what we love, and where we live.
Christmas Eve 2023 | Luke 2:10 - 11
Born to Destroy the Works of the Devil | 1 John 2:28-3:10
Born to Preach the Good News | Luke 4:42-44
Born to Seek and Save the Lost | Luke 19:1-10
In this message, Timothy Ateek walks through 1 John and challenges Christians to reflect on our lives in light of the gospel by examining what we believe, how we live, what we love, and where we live.
Either God is your father or the devil is your father - There isn't a third, more moderate option. It's important for Christians to examine our lives, our actions, and our beliefs so that we can experience greater amounts of joy and intimacy with the reality that God is our Father.
Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing today? It's good to see you. I hope all is well with Christmas just a week away. If this is your first time ever at Watermark, thank you for joining us. Thanks for trusting us with your Sunday. My name is Timothy Ateek, and I'm one of the teaching pastors here.
As I was preparing for this morning, I thought about the story my oldest son shared at the dinner table when we were talking about our most embarrassing moments. I'm going to share his right now, but he knows I'm going to share it so we're all good. This was a story I didn't know happened until he told it at the dinner table.
Several years ago, our family went to the public pool. Noah was young, and he was out of the pool and thought he was holding his father's hand. Then, as he was standing there holding his dad's hand, he looked into the pool because he wanted to see what his younger brother was doing, and he found his younger brother and saw that his younger brother was actually in the pool with his dad, which begs the question…Whose hand are you holding?
Noah looked up, and he was very surprised to find out he was holding some old shirtless man's hand that he didn't know. Right now you might be thinking, "You're not a very good dad, because you're in the pool and your son is outside of the pool holding hands with some random dude." That makes sense, and I need to look into that and think about that for the future.
What did Noah do when he realized that? He immediately ran and jumped into the pool to rejoin his dad and his younger brother. Why am I telling you that? The reason I'm telling you that is Noah believed he was with his father when he wasn't. He believed he was connected to his father, but in the end he was actually connected to some other random father.
The reason I tell you that is because today, as we look into the book of 1 John right here at Christmastime… The goal this morning is for us to kind of look up and see whose hand we're holding. It's for us to all make sure we're holding the right father's hand. Now, you might be hearing that and are like, "Dude, I need you to spell it out for me. I don't know what you're talking about right now, because you're talking about holding different people's hands."
Okay. Here's the deal. In 1 John, chapter 3, John the Evangelist, the one who's writing this book, is writing to bring clarity to his readers' lives. For him, he sees things very clearly. He sees things in black and white. In John's mind, as he's writing… This really isn't just in John's mind. This is God through John to his audience. John wants to be clear. There are only two fathers. There's God as father and there's the Devil as father. You're either connected to God as father or you're connected to the Devil as your father.
If you're sitting there like, "Whoa! This feels way extreme and, like, this ratcheted up very quickly," well, this is what the Word of God talks about. There is no third more moderate option. So, you might be sitting there thinking, "What does this have to do with Christmas? I thought we were in a series called Born." Well, the reason we're calling the series Born is we are looking at different times in the Scripture where it is explicitly stated why Jesus Christ was born, why he showed up in a manger, why we celebrate Christmas.
In 1 John 3:8 at the latter half of the verse, listen to what it says. "The reason the Son of God appeared…" This is why we celebrate Christmas. This is why Jesus showed up in a manger. "…was to destroy the works of the devil." So, the reason John is writing is he wants to make sure you and I aren't connected to the one whom Jesus came to destroy. Today is just an opportunity for us to look up and check to see whose hand we're holding.
Here's the reality. Some of y'all might be surprised. For some of you, today might be a day of clarity where you realize you've been connecting to the wrong father. You know what? That would be a great realization, and there's a great invitation on the table for you. The way we're going to discern whose hand we're holding is I'm going to invite us from the text to do four things. I'm going to invite you to, first, examine what you believe; secondly, examine how you live; thirdly, examine what you love; and finally, examine where you live.
If you have a Bible, turn with me to 1 John, chapter 3. Usually, when we're studying a passage, our normal rhythm is to just walk verse by verse through a passage. We'll read a verse, we'll explain it, and then we'll move on to the next verse. Well, the way John the Evangelist writes is there's a cyclical nature to it. He has a little bit of ADD for those in the room who are like, "Yes. Praise God. I can identify with that." John is the type…
If you're reading 1 John, he's going to talk about something, then in the next verse he's going to talk about something totally different, and then in a couple of verses he's going to circle back to what he was talking about. It's like he's going to say something, get distracted, talk about something else, and come back to it. He kind of lives in a circular pattern. John always knows where he's taking us, and it's all very good.
What I really appreciate about what John does is he uses the same words over and over and over. So, we're going to let that drive the message today. If you want to take your Bible study to the next level, here's what I'd encourage you to do: print out a passage on a piece of paper, and then get different highlighters with different colors and highlight the words that are repeated or connected. We're going to do that on the screen today, and the repeated and connected words are going to drive the flow of the message. Read along with me. We're actually going to start in verse 28 of chapter 2. John writes:
"And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother."
There is so much amazing truth in this passage there is no way we're going to be able to do these 12 verses justice, so I'm just letting you know from now we are going to hit the highlights, but what I want you to see is all of the familial language in the text. Did you see it? We see Father, children of God, God's children, born of God, God's seed, children of the Devil. God put this passage in the Bible to help clarify which father you are really connected to. One pastor referred to this text as God's paternity test. So that's where we're going today.
What you need to understand about John is he is a guy who never got over God's love for him. Even when he wrote the gospel of John… Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, same author. Do you know how John referred to himself when he was writing about himself? He called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. How arrogant is that? Other disciples are there when he's writing, and he's like, "The disciple whom Jesus loved. Of course."
It's either really arrogant or it's just confident. It's just confidence in the love of God. He's a guy who never got over the love of God. It's actually a model for us. My question for you is…Have you never gotten over the love of God or is it the reality is you've never understood the love of God? Here's what I want you to think about. If you could paint a painting that depicts the love of God for you and the world, what would be included in that painting?
Just think. Picture it in your mind. What would be on the painting that reflects God's love? Of course there would be Jesus in a manger. That's the eternal Son of God leaving heaven and taking on flesh. Of course there would be Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead to save us from our sins, to make a way for us to spend eternal life with God in heaven. Of course all that would be on that painting.
If that's all there was, it would be enough for us to declare that expression of love to be extravagant and incomprehensible, but that's not the full extent of God's love. If we're not careful, we're going to crop out the greatest reality of the gospel for you and me. See, we tend to crop out what is unimportant from our photos right here at Christmastime.
If we're not careful, we're going to crop out the reality that because of what Christ has done, we who were enemies of God have been made children of God, that the eternal Son of God took on flesh to make a way for you and me to be invited into the family and to live in Christ and experience the love and delight the Father has for the Son, for us to experience that ourselves.
So, the reason the point I'm making right now is to examine what you believe is I just want to push back against this incorrect theology in the world that we are all in some way children of God. That's just not true. No one in the world was actually born a child of God. Some of you might believe, because of a tradition, that when your parents made the choice to have you baptized as an infant that was your entrance into the family of God, that's when you became a child of God, but that's incorrect as well if we're going to take the Bible seriously.
In Ephesians, chapter 2, the apostle Paul calls people prior to knowing Jesus, if you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ… He would call people without a relationship with Jesus Christ children of wrath. In Romans, chapter 5, Paul would call people without a relationship with Jesus Christ enemies of God. Listen to how Jesus puts it in John 8:42. He's talking to a group of people, and here's what he says: "If God were your Father, you would love me…"
What's the implication? He's saying, "You don't love me; therefore, God is not your Father, which means you're not a child of God." Then he goes on in verse 44 and says, "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires." Jesus makes it clear there are two fathers in the world. There's God as father and there's the Devil as father, and not everyone is born a child of God.
There's only one way to become a child of God. John the Evangelist, who wrote 1 John, also wrote the gospel of John, and he tells us how to become children of God in John, chapter 1. Listen to what he says in verses 12-13. "But to all who did receive him [Jesus] , who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
So, let me put this all together for you. If you're here today and you would call yourself a Christian, then to say you're a Christian is to say, "I understand there was a time in my life when I was an enemy of God." It's for you to be clear that you were born an enemy of God. You were actually born a child of wrath, and in the eyes of God you were born a child of the Devil, yet a miracle has happened in your life.
God in his kindness has set his affection on you in such a way that he has drawn you to himself, and his Spirit has worked in your life in such a way that you understand the beautiful realities of the gospel, that Jesus Christ went to the cross to deal with all of the sin that was rightfully yours. He was punished in your place, and then he rose from the dead to conquer all of your sins. In doing so, he made a way when there was no way for you into the family of God.
You were an enemy of God, and now you are a child of God. God has put his Spirit inside of you, which means you have your heavenly Father's DNA inside of you. You have a new heart with new desires and a new capacity to live out God the Father's family values. That's what we're saying when we say we are Christians. Now, if you hear that and that feels like new news to you…that is unfamiliar knowledge to you…great. That's a great realization.
If you're here today, and you're like, "That's not true of me, but I want it to be true of me," that can be true now. Even if you came into this place believing you were a Christian but you realize what I just said isn't true for you, the great news is there is nothing that is keeping you from becoming a child of God today. This is why God brought you here: so you could hear, "For as many as received him, he gave the right to become children of God." Receive Jesus today.
At the same time, if you're sitting there saying, "Look. TA, I get it. I'm a Christian. I understand I'm a child of God…" If that's you, then I want to encourage you with the words of J.I. Packer. J.I. Packer was considered one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. Here's what he said. Don't miss it.
He says, "If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all." That is really powerful and a little bit convicting.
It means we could spend the rest of the day and, honestly, the rest of 2023 just unpacking verse 1 of chapter 3. "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God…" But we don't have that luxury today. Here's what we can say. Can't we all agree…? If J.I. Packer is right, then we all have ground to take toward greater intimacy and greater joy with God. And where is it found? It is found in understanding our true identity and God's true identity. God is Father and we are his children.
Do you operate with God in that way? Do you see yourself and God through that lens? My fear is we would only see God as King. God is King. Jesus is the King of all Kings, but if we only see God as King, then we will only see ourselves as servants. Are we servants? Absolutely. But God is Father, and we are his children. This is the most beautiful implication of the gospel. We were children of wrath, and now we're children of God. We were children of the Devil. We were enemies, and now we're children of God.
Several years ago, Kat and I went to marriage counseling. We went to see a professional counselor. One of the sessions really turned into a therapy session for me. She led us through this exercise, and during this exercise I realized I was operating under a banner in my life, and the one word on that banner was the word failure. I realized that one word was a driving force in my life. It was something that influenced every aspect of my life.
I thought about how I was doing as a minister, how I was doing as a husband, and how I was doing as a dad. In each of these different aspects of life, all I could hear was "Failure." That's the banner I lived under. What was happening was I was finding my identity in what I did instead of who I was. It was one of the most powerful encounters with God I've ever had. In that moment, God reached into my heart. He interrupted my life in such a meaningful and powerful way as Father.
He revealed himself to me in a very real way to remind me of who he is and how he sees me as his child, that it isn't based on what I do; it's based on what he has done in sending his Son to make a way when there was no way for me who was an enemy to become a child. I left that therapy session feeling free and renewed in my relationship with God to know that there's a Father in heaven who when he sees me doesn't see failure; he sees his victory being played out in my life. I tell you that to say something needs to change for some of us.
I am a very imperfect father, yet I think about what I thought and felt when my second son Andrew was born. It's not that I didn't feel it when Noah, my firstborn, was born. I just remember when Andrew was born, the nurse handed him to me, and I remember holding him, and this is exactly what happened. I'm glad there wasn't a camera that filmed this. I just remember being like, "I just love him so much!"
It was ugly. It was not attractive, but it was what was happening in the moment. My delight, my love was maxed out for a kid I had only held for 10 seconds. Why is it that we can feel that delight and unconditional affection for our children, yet we never allow ourselves to experience a perfect Father feeling that for us? It's crazy. That is how the Devil is so successful in our lives. He distorts our understanding of who God is as a perfect Father and who we are as his children.
Think about what I am telling you. He is a perfect Father. So, if you grew up with a great dad, do you know what the good news is? All of the ways your dad was good, God is infinitely more. If you grew up with a dad who really bombed, you know what? All of the ways he failed God is infinitely not. He's perfect. His love for you isn't based upon how well you perform. He isn't perpetually disappointed in you. He delights in you.
He loves being with you and talking to you. He's proud of you. At the same time, he knows and wants what is best for you, and when you settle for less, his discipline always overflows out of his love and not his anger. I just wonder how different our lives would be if we could tap into some of the urgency John is expressing when he's like, "See it! See the love. Behold it. Grasp it. See what kind of love the Father has given to us…it's crazy…that we should be called children of God."
This week, Kat was showing me a video of a little girl who was finding out she was being adopted. I know many of you have experienced this. Also, at the same time, when we talk about adoption, for some there might be really hard things attached to it, but for this video… The joy this girl felt as she read from her foster parents that she was being adopted, and for her to just break down into tears.
She was like, "I'm being adopted?" It was this realization, "Everything is changing. Someone has chosen me. Someone has set their affection on me. I am restored to what is rightfully mine…to belong to a family." The joy she felt is a microcosm for how we should feel when the God of the universe looks at us and calls us his children. So, the first and by far the longest point I'm trying to make today is to examine what you believe.
The way we're going to examine this in 1 John 3… Remember, we're following repeated words. It gets fleshed out in the contrast John is making between practicing sin and practicing righteousness. Look back at it with me. Verse 29 of chapter 2: "If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him." Do you see the equation he's making? If you practice righteousness, you can be sure you've been born of God.
Verse 4: "Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness." Verse 7: "Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous." You're just doing what your dad does. It makes sense.
Verse 8, though. This is clarity. "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil…" Wow! That's pretty clear. This is John like, "Let's not sugarcoat things. Let's not find a cute, sexier way of saying it. Here's the reality. Whoever makes a practice of sinning…let's be clear…is of the Devil." "…for the devil has been sinning from the beginning."
Verse 9: "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God." Verse 10: "By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother."
What is the point John is making? He's just saying, "Examine how you live." You can basically tell who your father is by the life you live. It's a spiritual DNA thing. Think about it. You are ultimately going to resemble the one whose spiritual DNA you have. It's like DNA in this world. There have been times recently where Kat has been like, "You're doing what your dad does. That's what your dad does."
My dad, when he's eating a snack, will take it in his hand and then pop it in his mouth. It's like a forceful throwing. Well, that's what I do. Kat is like, "You're going to choke." We have this conversation often. I'll sit there and throw something in very forcefully. She's like, "You are going to choke. That's what your dad does." It's just the way it works. I am the son of my father. I have a great dad, and I watch what my dad does. I resemble how my dad looks and what my dad does.
It's a spiritual DNA thing when you think about the reality that if you have been made new, if you've been born again… That's the language John uses. When you are born again, it's like a new birth has taken place. God has made you new. He has given you a new heart. You have new desires. You have a new capacity. You have the Spirit of God living inside of you to make you resemble your Father, that you would live out the family values.
You'll either practice sin because the Devil is your father or you'll practice righteousness because God is your Father. So, here's what we need to clarify. What does it mean to practice sin? What does it mean to practice righteousness? If some of y'all are wired like me, you lean toward anxiety. With a message like this, if it were me, my anxiety can kick in, and it's like, "Oh man! Am I doing enough to be sure I'm a child of God?" That's not what we're talking about right now.
So, let me be clear on what it means to practice sin. To make a practice of sin is this. Don't miss it. It is rationalizing sin as a viable way of life. It's making sin a habit or a lifestyle and feeling good about it. It's telling God "No." It's deciding you're going to do what you want to do and it doesn't matter what God or anyone else says.
Or you might go so far as to convince yourself that God wants you to be happy above anything else, even if it means disobeying what he has commanded in his Word. That is practicing sin. Now let me be clear what I'm not talking about. We're not talking about sin you continue to fall into but hate and desperately want to be free from. That's not what we're talking about here.
For example, I battled pornography for seven years. The summer before my freshman year in high school all the way to the summer before my senior year in college was a seven-year intense battle with pornography. All seven of those years I hated what I was doing because I knew it was not what God wanted for me. I wanted to be free from it, yet I kept finding my way back to it, and I didn't know where to go to get free.
There's some encouragement as I think about that, because while I look back and I hated what I was doing and hated that it was for seven years, the reality is God was at work in my life. The reason I could never fully enjoy pornography was I was a child of God and the Spirit of God was convicting me. It was like "Red alert! This is contrary to your Father's family values." There were signs of life in me that God was working in me.
If that's you, and there's sin in your life that has become a habit, but you know it's not what God wants for you and you hate it and want to be done with it, whether it's using profanity or looking at pornography or raising your voice at your spouse or your kids or consistently taking the edge off with alcohol or overspending or overeating…whatever it is…on one hand, be encouraged. The fact that you hate it and don't want to do it and know that God is better for you is a good sign that God is at work in you and you know God's family values.
Let me encourage you on how to take a step toward freedom. First, start operating from the right identity. A lot of times, the way we rationalize sin is like, "You know what? I'm a guy. This is what guys do. All human beings fail. Everyone screws up. Nobody is perfect." I understand all that, but let's operate from what is the truest thing we can say about ourselves. We are children of God.
We're not stereotypical people because we have the Spirit of the living God living inside of us. We are wildly different than the rest of humanity. We live in a very different family, and we have access to the same power that raised Christ from the dead. So, let's operate from the right identity that we're children of God.
Secondly, I would encourage you to go buy my friend John Elmore's book Freedom Starts Today. It's a great way to start processing truth. Thirdly, check out re:generation tomorrow night. It's our recovery ministry. You should come. Don't wait for the new year where you're like, "You know what? January 1. That's when we'll start thinking about it." No. Why would you wait? Why would you wait two weeks to start experiencing joy and freedom when it's available now? Check out re:gen tomorrow.
But what if you don't feel convicted? What if you're here and you don't feel convicted about looking at porn or cheating on your spouse or using profanity or yelling at your spouse and kids and on and on? Am I saying you are not a Christian? It's a good question. Here's what I would say. Anytime you're in that sort of place where you don't feel convicted about sin for an extended season, it is worth asking yourself why.
It's at least asking yourself why you are so content doing something God hates and the Devil loves. That's just worth asking. If you consider yourself a Christian, you consider yourself a child of God, then what you're saying is, "God is my Father, and I want to do what he loves," but for you to say, "I am committed to continuing to do what God hates and the Devil loves…" That's confusing. It's at least worth asking the question…Why is that happening?
It's possible that you're so young in your faith you don't realize what God's values are. Now you do. It might be that you have worked really hard to quiet the Spirit's work of conviction in your heart, but even now, God brought you here today, and today is a blaring warning signal from God that it is not what he wants for you.
If you're hearing that, then your next step is simply to repent and come back. Or it might be what John is saying. It might be that your father is the Devil and you're just doing what your real father values. If that's you, here's the great news: nothing is stopping you from becoming a child of God today. Everything can change now.
So, what does it mean to practice righteousness? We've talked about practicing sin. What does it mean to practice righteousness? Well, righteousness is simply correctness in the way you think, feel, and act. To practice righteousness is to live surrendered to God's ways. It's to want what he wants, to love what he loves, to think what he thinks, and to do what he does. To practice righteousness is to do that by the power of the Spirit, knowing you will do it imperfectly for the rest of your life. Even prepping for this message this week, God convicted me of sin I've let linger in my life.
One of the things I've told my kids… This is kind of the Ateek way. I've told my boys, "Y'all are each other's best friends." They're like, "No, we're brothers." I'm like, "No, y'all are best friends." I feel like if I say it enough they'll begin to believe it. I'm like, "Y'all are best friends." Yet almost weekly there are times where we're having conversations. I'm like, "Y'all are treating each other like enemies." I really believe my boys love each other and do see each other as their brothers, their closest friends, yet it's imperfect.
There are going to be times where we operate in a way that is more consistent with our previous family when the Devil was our father. The quickest path back to operating under the rule of your heavenly Father is repentance, but it's going to be imperfect, and that's okay. That's why we need God's Word: to remind us every day of who we are as God's children and what God's family values are. We need God's Spirit to convict us of the things that are not in line with the family, and we need community to challenge us and sharpen us to be who we are as God's children.
So what's John's point? Here's his point. It makes no sense to cling to the things Jesus came to take away. Jesus will never be cool with us rationalizing a lifestyle with the things he endured the wrath of God for. It's just good for us to evaluate, "What are the things I love? Do I love the things Jesus came to take away?"
The end of verse 8… This is our anchor verse for this text. "The reason the Son of God appeared…" There's that word again. "…was to destroy the works of the devil." He came to destroy the works of the Devil…all of the lies he tells, all his work to fuel hate and selfishness, greed, lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, pornography, bitterness, resentment, divorce, human trafficking, jealousy, gossip, and on and on.
Everything that is valued in the Devil's family that gets fleshed out into the world… That is why Jesus showed up in a manger. He came to destroy the works of the Devil. So let's be clear. When we think about Christmas, we often feel warm feelings and think about peace, but Jesus showing up in a manger was an all-out assault of heaven upon hell. That's what it was.
In war movies sometimes people say, "Unleash hell." No, unleash heaven. That was the greatest display of power our world has ever seen when the eternal Son of God left heaven, came to earth, went to the cross, and rose from the dead to destroy the works of the Devil. So, here's what we need to make sure. We need to make sure we don't love the things Jesus came to destroy.
You might hear that and be like, "Look, dude. I don't love murder. I don't love adultery. I don't love cheating, so I think I'm good." Well, let me position it in a different way that was convicting for me as I was preparing. Sometimes we turn God's gifts into gods. Sometimes we take good things and make them gods. That's called idolatry, where we love something more than we love Jesus. That's idolatry.
Jesus came to destroy idolatry. Why? Because there's nothing on this planet that can satisfy us like he can. We have been made for him. He came to bring us back to God. So, what's the answer? I mean, what's the answer? What do you do with a message like this? Is the answer "Go out, try harder, do more, suck it up, and be better"? No. Here's the great news: the text gives us the answer.
Verse 28, which is the first verse in the whole passage, says, "And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears…" He already talked about Jesus appearing. He already appeared once to destroy the works of the Devil, but he's going to appear again. We should abide. "…so that when he appears we may have confidence…" That we know exactly whose hand we're holding. "…and not shrink from him in shame at his coming."
The goal is that we would live as new creations longing for the new creation. God has made us new. What we want to do is live and long for the day he's going to come back, and when he comes back, we want to live with confidence. What's the key? It's found in the five-letter word abide. It's the Greek word meno, which means to stay or to dwell. That's why the point is examine where you live.
This is the type of relationship Jesus encouraged his disciples with right before he was arrested. They have their last supper. Then they get up and begin to make their way to the garden of Gethsemane. On the way, Jesus most likely walks through a vineyard and takes a grapevine and uses it as an illustration for his friends on how to have a real, meaningful relationship with God. Listen to what he says in John 15. Favorite passage in the Bible right here.
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."
Jesus is saying, "Do you want to be confident? Do you want to know exactly whose hand you're holding? Do you want to look like your Father? Abide." Jesus' goal for his friends was that they would live a fruitful life, that their lives would reflect the true life source, but did you see the command? The command wasn't "Go out and bear fruit." What was the command? "Abide." Live all of life with Jesus, because when you abide, bearing fruit is inevitable, but if you don't abide, bearing fruit is impossible.
You're like, "What does it look like to abide?" It's very simple. Just take Jesus seriously when he says, "Apart from me you can do nothing." What if you really believed that? What if you woke up tomorrow really believing, "You know what? Jesus, I'm just going to take you seriously. Apart from you I can do nothing, so, God, please speak to me. I desperately need to hear from you from your Word. God, I'm going to beg you to move. I'm going to pray."
Then when you close this and say, "Amen," you're not leaving God at home. You're aware that he is with you every minute of the day. As you're walking throughout the day, you're awake to his presence. You're watching for what God is showing you, because he's constantly displaying his goodness in your life. When you need wisdom, you're asking for it. When you're tempted, you're asking for strength. When you need to encourage someone, you're asking him for the words to encourage with. When you need self-control, you're begging him for it.
All throughout the day, you are living with him. Do you know what the result will be? The result will be that you're going to look more like Jesus, and because you look more like Jesus, you're going to look more like your Father and the family values of your heavenly Father are going to be so evident in your life. You can live with confidence. "I belong to him. It just makes sense. I love my Father and my Father loves me, and I can sit and enjoy his love."
What did Noah do when he realized he was holding the wrong father's hand? He ran back to his real father. So, what does that look like for you today? What does it look like for you to run back to your real Father? Maybe you've examined what you believe today, and you realize you've never truly understood the good news of Christianity. Today, you're realizing you're an enemy of God, but you want to become a child of God. What does it look like for you to run to the Father? It's to receive Jesus.
Maybe you're examining how you live and there are some ways you're practicing sin that you need to confess. You need to repent. You need to ask God for forgiveness. That's a great realization to have that you're living like you look more like your old father than your real Father. That's a great realization to have. Repent and experience the joy of his forgiveness.
Maybe you're realizing you love something more than you love Jesus. That's a good realization to have. It's okay. Repent. Experience his forgiveness. Maybe you're more aware now of what a real abiding relationship with God looks like. Great. Then just ask God… Before you leave here, just say, "God, draw me close. Wake me up. I want to be aware of your presence every moment of every day, and I want to live life with you." Let's pray together.
Lord Jesus, thank you for what you've done, that you have come to make a way when there was no way for us into the family of God. Thank you that we have the privilege of having the God of the universe look at us and call us his sons and daughters. What a joy.
I pray that would be meaningful to us, God, that we wouldn't take it lightly that there was a time when we would be considered children of wrath and children of the Devil, yet you, Jesus, have rescued us and have come to destroy the works of the Devil. May we not love the things you came to destroy. May we love you. We praise you and thank you for who you are, and we need you. In Jesus' name, amen.
Jesus was born to die so that we might live. Each week during Advent, we will look at what Scripture says about the significance of Jesus' birth and the purpose of his life, death, and resurrection.