A “Lackawanna” Lifestyle – [Part One]

First John 3:1-9:1johnwordcloud

See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are!  But the people who belong to this world don’t know God, so they don’t understand that we are his children.  Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t imagine what we will be like when Christ returns.  But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.  And all who believe this will keep themselves pure, just as Christ is pure.  Those who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of God.  And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, for there is no sin in him.  So if we continue to live in him, we won’t sin either.  But those who keep on sinning have never known him or understood who he is.  Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it is because they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous.  But when people keep on sinning, it show they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning.  But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil.  Those who have been born into God’s family do not sin, because God’s life is in them.  So they can’t keep on sinning, because they have been born of God.

“CHILDREN OF GOD” —

In 1997, the editorial page of a newspaper had a CARTOON tacked on to the column:

In the 1st Frame, a man said,  “I’m tired. I’ll take a pill.”

In the next frame, he said,  “I’m stressed. I’ll take a pill.”

In the 3rd frame, he said,  “I’m depressed. I’ll take a pill.”

And in the next-to last frame,  “I’m overweight. I’ll take a pill.”

In the last frame, he says,  “I’m unethical–is there a pill for that?”

Yes! There is!  The GOS–pill .

The GOSPEL is…the Good News!!

When it comes to obeying God’s law, are we troubled by our “Lackawanna”?  In JESUS Christ, God does more than tell us, “Don’t do that!”  In Christ, God transforms us–fixes that Lackawanna.  That is the Good News!

1.  What is our Motivation?

JESUS IS COMING BACK.  And when He does, we well know, we have to give an account of our lives.  That should motivate us to live today more Godly lives.

1 John 2:28:

Who Are God's Kids?
Who Are God’s Kids?

And now little children, abide (live, remain permanently) in Him, so that when He is made visible, we may have and enjoy perfect confidence (boldness, assurance) and not be ashamed and shrink from Him at His coming (Amplified Bible).

2.  What kind of a Christian life do we live?

Not everyone in “the church” will be happy to see JESUS’ return.  Those who continue or abide in Him will.  They walk in fellowship with Christ.

I don’t know about you, but personally, that fellowship may be strained at times; I become more ‘self-centered’ and less GOD-centered and the fellowship goes out the window.  Even so, I know and recognize ,there is still rest in Christ and His grace.

If we want to– (versus “Lackawanna”), to stand confident and unashamed when JESUS returns, we better stay in close fellowship with Him right now!  In Him, nothing can shame us.

3.  Image is everything–

One day, all of our works will be judged.  ALL our works–everything we’ve done.  And a question to ask ourselves in our busy and hectic lives,  “How closely have I reflected Christ’s image?”  Just keeping it real and personal.

OUR ONLY HOPE:

Our only hope of righteousness comes by continuing in Christ.  As Jesus puts it in John 15:5, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

Lucille Ball’s Problem–

When I was growing up, my family would never miss The Lucille Ball Show on our small screen television.  Her misadventures had us all rolling on the floor laughing.

On the day Christ judges our works, if we haven’t abided in Christ, we’ll have Lucille Ball’s problem.  When she got in trouble, Desi Arnaz would tell her,  “Luci, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

This raises some important questions.  How can we know that we’re continuing (“abiding”) in Christ?  How can we know if we’re saved?  John answers the question:

If you know that He is righteous, you may also know that everyone who does righteously is born of Him  (verse 29).

Christ is righteous!  He never sinned.  He lived a perfect, holy, righteous life.

Only JESUS has ever done that.  How then can we know if we’re SAVED?

Do we look like Him?

Do we do right?

Do we practice righteousness?

By practicing righteousness, we show we really are born of God.  GOD IS RIGHTEOUS.  Everyone born of God increasingly shows His righteousness.

4.  A true Christian pursues, seeks…Christ-likeness.

We try hard to be more like JESUS in our daily living.  And as we are ‘trying’… abiding in Christ, He gives us the POWER to do it!  That’s sanctification–it becomes a life-long process.  In this life of ours, we’ll never get sinless completely.  But we should increasingly “sin less”.

All Christians are in God’s family.  We are related to Christ by blood–His.  As in all families, there should be a trait–a family resemblance. 

Over my, ‘going on 50 years’ of marriage, my wife has said  “Honey, you and your brother and dad’s voice sound exactly alike over the phone”, or “That habit of yours is exactly like your dads.”  Could the reason just be, my brother and I came from the same seed?

John is saying, if we are truly born of Him, we will bear a family resemblance to JESUS; we will practice righteousness.  We’ll still stumble and fall flat on our faces spiritually, but we’ll keep practicing righteousness.  Otherwise, we aren’t true children of God.  If more and more we do right as God does, we show our inherited family likeness.  We show we’re His kids!  His voice (His Word), His habits…His good works.

5.  How Great Is The LOVE…(verse 1)

Literally, John says “See what kind of love the father has lavished on us”.

The Message Bible reads,  “Just look at it–we’re called children of God!  That’s who we really are.  But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously because it has no idea who He is or what He’s up to.”

The world failed to recognize JESUS.  Those living in the world live in darkness and they won’t venture into the light–they hate it!

The more we practice righteousness, the less the world will understand us and we’ll be more like JESUS.  We should fear the world’s approval, not want it!  To be hated by the world isn’t fun.  But it should reassure Christians that God LOVES us, and that’s more important than the world’s hatred.

6.  At times, we might look more like the world than we should–

We might not be as conformed to Christ’s image as we should.  But there is a time coming, when we will perfectly display Christ’s image.

John continues by saying,  “But friends, that’s exactly who we are:  children of God.  And that’s only the beginning…Who knows how we’ll end up!”  (verse 2 (a) -The Message Bible).

WHEN?  When JESUS comes to take us home with Him!

A Great Sculptor’s IMAGE–

Michelangelo's David
Michelangelo’s David

A Great Sculptor sees in stone the image that he wants.  When Michelangelo created the sculpture of David, he chiseled away everything that wasn’t David.

Likewise, God puts JESUS’ image in us–His Spirit lives in us.  And now, God wants to chisel away everything that isn’t Christ.  He is still working on us.  That’s the evidence that we are His true children.

“For we are God’s [own] handiwork  (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus [born anew]…”  (Ephesians 2:10 AMP).

7.  We aren’t finished yet!

When JESUS returns, God will complete whatever is lacking in our conformity to Christ’s likeness.  That’s what Paul was saying:

“He who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return, developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you”  (Philippians 1:6 AMP).

“But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”  (1 John 3:2 (b)).

8.  How Will We Be Like Him?

—  We’ll be like Him physically:

Our bodies will be changed and we will be made like His glorified resurrected body (John 20:14, 19, 26-29; John 21:1-25).  Some Bible Teachers say, JESUS’ age when resurrected bodily from the earth was 33 years.  So…just possibly, our age in the glorified new body will be 33 years of age.   That’s why the apostle Paul tells us,

“But we are citizens of the state (commonwealth, homeland) which is in heaven, and from it also we earnestly and patiently await [the coming of] the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [as] Savior.    Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself”  (Philippians 3:20-21 Amplified Bible).

—  And we’ll be like Him spiritually:

We will be made perfectly holy!  Our sin nature will be eliminated.  We’ll be able to do all that is righteous and pure.  That’s all we’ll want to do.  And we won’t be tempted any longer.

9.  We will have JESUS’ NATURE:

We, too, will be pure and holy.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to see JESUS or enter Heaven’s glory!

Having the Wonderful Hope in Our Lives–

“And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure  (chaste, undefiled, guiltless)”  (verse 3).

Having the wonderful HOPE that John is speaking to us about, should, change our behavior.  We will be completely righteous like Christ in the future.  THAT should, make us want to be more Christ-like now!  That “wonderful hope” prevents us from venturing into a Lackawanna” lifestyle.

Do we really believe …JESUS is coming back for us?

If so, we’d be getting ready for Him.

If we knew that an important guest was coming to our home, I don’t know about you–but personally, I’d be helping my wife by doing some housecleaning in preparation.

If we really believe JESUS is coming back, we would do some spiritual housecleaning now.  Cleaning out our spiritual closets and not sweeping the ‘dirt’ under the carpet.  Is it time for REPENTANCE (getting rid of the spiritual clutter) or, do you have a “Lackawanna” attitude?

10.  What does the word “lawlessness” mean?

I heard a pastor preach one Sunday, that as believers…”we are no longer under the Law”.  Do I disagree with that decree?  Yes, and No.

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness”  (verse 4- NIV Bible).

Our youngest daughter when growing up had a personality trait that, how should I say, often frustrated her mom and dad.  One afternoon, I decided to take the family on a ride in the surrounding country; to see if I could find the perfect strawberry stand.  Finally, after a thorough search, we found the perfect spot: fresh berries, reasonably priced, and under the shade of a large tree.  It was a warm Southern California day.

Defiant-ChildWhen I returned to the car, there she was, standing on the backseat of our 1969 Station Wagon.  This was going against the “Standing up on the backseat Thompson Car Law”:  

“Krissy, you need to sit down.”  She began to frown at my command but continued standing.

“Kris, I mean it!  Sit down or…” 

She sat down at the raising of my voice but, when looking in the car’s rear-view mirror, her arms folded and a scowl on her face– she was still standing up on the inside!  That is LAWLESSNESS pure and simple–open rebellion!  My daughter was “made” to obey.  But, her heart still held rebellion.

Lawlessness isn’t occasional sin.  It is… open rebellion against God–having no regard of what God thinks or says.

[Will continue study in PART TWO– A “Lackawanna” Lifestyle?]

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