A “Lackawanna” Lifestyle – [Part Two]

Study Verses: 1 John 3:1-9

WHAT “LAWLESSNESS” ISN’T:

I left off in PART ONE– A “Lackawanna” Lifestyle– on Lawlessness; what it is and what it isn’t.  Lawlessness, pure and simply stated is… “open rebellion against God; having no regard of what GOD thinks or says”:

Those who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of God ~ 1 John 3:4.

The Amplified Bible says it this way:

Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect–being unrestrained and unregulated by His commandments and His will).

If we’re really saved, we won’t do that–“practice sin”.  We may disobey GOD once in a while, but a true believer won’t practice sin.

“Steel Guitar Blues”

I can remember when I was about 12 years old, I begged my parents for an Electric Steel Guitar.  Not just a ‘plain old guitar’ but a “Steel Guitar”.  So, they decided to grant my request with the following conditions: “We will get you a “used” one first.  Then, after lessons and ‘practicing diligently’, maybe, just maybe we will get you a newer one with a guitar stand.”

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My First Guitar

My first guitar laid across my lap!  Bummer!!  What will my buddies think?  They won’t think I am playing the ‘genuine’ instrument–without a stand?

If you want to get really good at doing something, you need to practice.  I never liked to “practice”, so the lessons stopped and so did my guitar playing.

If you keep on practicing sin–lawlessness–you will become really good at it.  Do you have an instrument used for sin; laying there on your lap, or if you are really good at it…on a display-stand so everyone can see it?  Do we know someone who says they’re Christian, but keeps on practicing open sin?  John says they aren’t saved!  A true believer can’t do that.

Why not?

John’s 2-part Answer:  1st, we don’t have to sin.

You know that He [GOD] appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him [JESUS] there is no sin.      (verse 5).

JESUS died on the cross to take away our sins.  And, because He had no sin, He could pay sin’s penalty.  Our sin is gone!

JESUS also took away the power of sin over us.  It may be alive in us, but we’re dead to its power over us:  “No one who abides (LIVES) in Him keeps on sinning.”  (verse 6 (a)).

We don’t have to practice sin anymore.  Why won’t a true believer keep on sinning?  Here comes a terrific Theological Answer to the question:  FIRST, John says… you don’t have to.

There’s a 2nd part of John’s answer–

“No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance  with Him]”  (1 John 3:6 (b)).

A TEENAGER’S DILEMMA:

A group of teenagers were enjoying a party [we’ve probably all been there and could tell some stories!].  Someone in the crowd suggested they all go to a certain “restaurant” and have a really good time!

“I’d rather you took me home”, the girl said to her date.  “My parents don’t approve of that place.”

“Afraid your father will hurt you?”  One of the girls asked sarcastically.

“No, I’m not afraid my father will hurt me.  But I am afraid I might hurt him!”

She understood:  A true child of God knows Father God–

—  They see and know His love.

—  They love God and in loving Him, they don’t want to sin against His love.

Now we have John’s 2-part reason why true believers can’t keep on sinning:

—  1st, they don’t have to.

—  2nd, true believers won’t want to.

When it comes down to practicing righteousness, God’s love HEALED their “Lackawanna”.

GRACE SOMETIMES CAN BE MISTAKEN – (verse 7 (a)):

“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray”

Some in John’s community were arguing over what God’s GRACE meant–it didn’t matter that they kept on sinning.  John is warning us– That isn’t true!  Choosing to do what’s righteous matters!

HOW? – (verse 7 (b).):

“He who does what is right is righteous, just as Christ is righteous”

Has there been a CHANGE in our lifestyle since we were SAVED?  Or, are we still practicing sin?

John is saying we were we were never SAVED if there is no change!  And even more, we’re supposed to be changing for the better– forever.  The apostle reminds us in the Book of Romans,

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, be be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will”  (Romans 12:2 NIV).

That “renewing” Paul is talking about, isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime event.  It is ongoing–everyday of your life happening.  I think that it is the second most important decision you will ever have to make in life; next to your decision of accepting JESUS as Lord and Savior.

We ought to be making PROGRESS…

WHY?  (verse 8):

“[But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated divine law) from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done].”

SATAN (the devil) holds the lost in his power-grip.  A Christian is held by Christ’s POWER.  When a lost person is found–becomes a born-again Christian–Satan’s power is broken.  They don’t have to practice sin any more–and they don’t want to!

JESUS Sets Us Free!

JESUS promised,

[34] “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you,  Whoever commits and practices sin is the slave of sin.  [36] So if the Son liberates you [makes you free men], then you are really and unquestionably free”  (The Gospel of John 8:34, 36 AMP).

If JESUS sets us free from the slavery of practicing sin, we won’t practice sin anymore–no lessons, no instruments available for sinning when we don’t practice.

Just the opposite, we’ll be working hard at becoming more Christ-like.  We’ll love Him too much not to!

GOD PLANTS THE SEED OF JESUS:

“No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him  [His principle of life, the divine sperm (seed), remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born of God”  (verse 9).

In every christian, the SEED is planted.  It’s done at our REBIRTH.  His seed (His holy nature) can’t sin.  And, at our rebirth, we receive a new nature–Christ’s.

His nature can‘t sin because…He can’t.  Whenever we do sin, it’s our old nature sinning.  When we die, our old sinful nature (attached to our sinful physical body) will die too.  It was predestined long ago.

In Christ JESUS, it was put to death at Calvary.  But it’s taking a long time to die.  When JESUS takes us home, all that will be left is our new nature.  The lost (the unsaved) have only the old nature that has never been put to death.  So it still lives to rule and reign in their hearts.  It will have to be JUDGED–THEIR UNRIGHTEOUS SEED IS ALL THEY HAVE.

A Good Tree and its Fruit–

Our study has been focused on 1 John 3:1-9, but I couldn’t stop at verse 9, I had to include verse 10:

“By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children…”

Can there be any doubt on how we live our lives becoming a SALVATION issue?  John isn’t saying it’s our deeds that save us.  BUT, he is saying clearly what JESUS said in Matthew 7:17 and Matthew 12:33:

“Either make the tree sound (healthy and good), and its fruit sound (healthy and good), or make the tree rotten (diseased and bad), and its fruit rotten (diseased and bad); for the tree is… know and recognized and judged by its fruit”  (Matthew 12:33 AMP).

Every Good Tree Bears Good FruitA “good tree” (from the “good seed”) produces good fruit–and a bad tree–bad fruit.  The FRUIT always reveals what kind of tree it is.

When GOD plants His Divine “seed” in us, it produces a desire, even sometimes a passion to SERVE–Obey and Live for Christ.  If we don’t have this desire, we don’t have His “seed” in us.

WHEN JESUS SAVED US…

GOD planted a new seed in us–and it will bring forth fruit–our good works.  And as we mature in Christ, the fruit matures in its appearance; the more evidence there’ll be in our life that we’re SAVED!

According to John, like that expression I heard in the late 1970’s,  “If we were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?”

GOD GETS THE GLORY!

It comes down to the bottom line on the ‘fruit bearing’ in our lives.  Are we doing so because of the accolades we will receive from others to our self-glory…or the roses we receive laid at the feet of JESUS?

[39] “And some of the Pharisees from the throng said to Jesus,  Teacher, reprove Your disciples!  [40] He replied, I tell you that if these keep silent, the very stones will cry out”  (Luke 19:39-40).

“So then, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you may do, do all for the honor and glory of God”  (1 Corinthians 10:31).

1 John 3:1-9
1 John 3:1-9

“It’s Been Long Enough–Now Grow Up!”

THE BOOK OF ISAIAH–Chapter 28:10, 13:

“[10] For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:  [13] But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and spared, and taken.”  (King James)

I love the way THE MESSAGE Bible words these two verses:  “Da, da, da, da, blah, blah. That’s a good little girl. that’s a good little boy.”

The Amplified Bible reads,  “Precept upon precept, rule upon rule”–

Well that’s sounds much clearer…or, does it?  At first glance, it sounds like BABY TALK.

USUALLY INTERPRETED…

The words are usually interpreted to mean “life is like that–when constructing a house you put ‘brick upon brick’ [“precept upon precept”] until the building is up.  Or in writing a blog; you put ‘sentence upon sentence’ until the blog is ready to post; made public.

My wife was just explaining to me this morning how she paints on a canvas; putting down layer upon layer of paint in giving the picture depth.  I immediately responded to her saying, “That’s just like it says in the Bible, ‘precept upon precept.’

But is that what this bible expression means?  Let’s take a closer look:

[10] “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little”  (KJV).

[13]  “Therefore the word of the Lord will be to them [merely monotonous repeatings of] precept upon precept, precept upon precept; rule upon rule, rule upon rule; here a little, there a little; that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken”  (AMP Bible).

If we spell the Hebrew words in our alphabet, it would look like this, “tsav latsav tsav latsav – kav, lakav kav lakav”. The repetition of single syllables reminds me of BABY’S FIRST WORDS we delight to hear as parents,  “Ma Ma,” “Da Da.”

By the way, I found in my DETECTIVE investigation a word, made-up of repeated mono-syllables, “murmur” [Mur Mur] in 1 Corinthians 10:10 (ASV):

[10] “Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer.”

“Ma Ma”, “Da Da”, “Mur Mur”

Perhaps the message is, “grumbling” (the word used in the NIV) is a rather childish behavior.

What then, do the Hebrew words mean?

–The word “Tsav” signifies a little precept, such as “is suited to the capacity of a child” (Adam Clarke).

–The word “Kav” signifies the line that a mason would stretch out building a layer of stones or a brick wall.  After one layer or course is placed, the line is raised and another layer is added.  Thus “line upon line” is used until the building is complete.

ISAIAH’S MESSAGE:

His message has to do with TEACHING:

(verse 9)  “To whom will He teach knowledge?”

At first glance, this sounds like a POSITIVE thing.  After all, this is how young children learn (or suppose to learn).  BUT the point made here is that the prophet’s audience are no longer children that Isaiah is addressing.  However, due to their unwillingness to move on in their relationship with God, he must treat them as little babies; keep going back to the primitive methods, “tsav latsav tsav latsav – kav lakav kav lakav’ – “precept upon precept, rule (or “line”) upon rule.”

I remember my parents telling me in growing up, “Mel, if you would have listened and obeyed the first time we told you so, we wouldn’t have to keep saying the same thing over and over again.”

When the people heard Isaiah talk this way, like a teenager might do today, they started mocking the prophet as they staggered through the streets in town (Isaiah 28:7).

The Time is Now to Take Full Responsibility for our Own Relationship with God.

That’s making sure that our lives are fulfilling in the God-given purpose for our being here in this world.  That we are LIVING in a way that is pleasing to Him.  The plain (let’s say “crude”) way to say it is, “GROW UP ALREADY!”

ENCOURAGEMENT GIVEN TO US TO “GROW UP” SPIRITUALLY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT:

The apostle Peter recognizes as new Christians, we are likened to “babies” who need milk for nourishment–a tasty, warm, liquid that can be ingested using an instinctive muscle system–SUCKING.  Now there’s a striking picture on Sunday mornings: A bunch of “sucking” Christians in the church building.

#1.  This is what Peter writes:

“SO BE done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy, jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind.  [2] Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation,  [3] Since you have [already] tasted the goodness and kindness of the Lord”  (1 Peter 2:1-3 AMP).

Yes, we start with milk, but then GROWTH is expected:

[3] “For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).  [5] For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence),  [6] And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety),  [7] And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love.  [8] For as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the [full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  [9] For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] short-sighted, seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins.”  (2 Peter 1:3, 5-9 AMP).

“MAKE EVERY EFFORT” (NIV) or “EXERCISE and DEVELOP” (AMP)–

We each bear the responsibility in our own spiritual growth in the development of our character.  Quit assigning the responsibility to your pastor/teacher.

#2.  Paul also understood this matter of moving from childhood to adulthood.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside”  (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Earlier, in the same church letter, Paul gave his teaching in the need to move from “milk” to “solid food”:

“HOWEVER, BRETHREN, I could not talk to you as to spiritual [men], but as to non-spiritual [men of the flesh, in whom the carnal nature predominates], as to mere infants [in the new life] in Christ [unable to talk yet!]  [2] I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you are not yet strong enough [to be ready for it]; but even yet you are not strong enough [to be ready for it],  [3] For you are still [unspiritual, having the nature] of the flesh [under control of ordinary impulses].  For as long as [there are] envying and jealousy and wrangling and factions among you, are you not unspiritual and of the flesh, behaving yourselves after a human standard and like mere (unchanged) men?”  (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 AMP).

The parallel here in these verses is between “worldly” and the “infantile.”  The CONNECTION is that being immature, they were not standing up against the world’s point of view around them–they were demonstrating attitudes and behaviors like those seen in the world–jealousy and quarrels.

#3.  The Third Time on the subject of Moving from Milk to Meat.

The Book of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:12-14):

“For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word.  You have come to need milk, not solid food.  [13] For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]!  [14] But solid food is for full-grown men, for those senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.”

The point here is that we no longer need to be given the same old rules and regulations on how we are to live in righteousness.  We no longer need “precept upon precept, line upon line.” 

We’ve now come to the place where we have trained ourselves to be able to distinguish what is right and wrong.  As my folks would tell me, “You should know by now the difference between what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’.”

But again notice where the responsibility lies, “to full-grown men [the mature]…have trained themselves.”

THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR PERSONAL GROWTH DOESN’T START WITH THE CHURCH:

The responsibility doesn’t begin with your pastor/teacher either but with each individual. 

Coming to church, reading the Word, and praying is less like going to eat at a restaurant, and more like spending time at a grocery store.  The money is in our pockets, the food is in the store, but it is our responsibility to find, buy and prepare food providing nourishment necessary for our health, growth and strength.

No longer may we expect someone else to lay it all out for us, “precept upon precept, line upon line” or “rule upon rule.”  It is our responsibility and true maturity only happens when we are willing to accept that responsibility.  And only then will we avoid the judgement of God in the “last day.”

“Milk is Good but Filet Mignon is Better!”

A recently released study by a Christian research organization shows that churchgoers do not read or study the Bible on a daily basis.

Transformational Discipleship Assessment released by Life Way Research noted that 19% of respondents report reading or studying the Bible ‘outside’ of church “every day.”  By contrast, 36% said they either engage their Bible “once a week”, “once a month”, or a “few times a month.”  And to my surprise, 18% reported rarely or never reading or studying the Bible outside of worship.

Scott McConnell, director of Life Way Research told this to the Christian Post:

“Regular Bible engagement is both personal and requires discipline.  Neither are popular in Western culture today.  Too many churchgoers want the benefits of salvation without investing in personally knowing Christ and the abundant life He offers.”

“MILK” or “MEAT” — SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY or SPIRITUAL MATURITY?

“Gala” in the Greek language is the word used for MILK.  Figuratively speaking, MILK is the Word of God used to nourish newborn babes in Christ.  So if all you’re taking for nourishment is the “milk of God’s word, the basic elements, you must be a “baby.”

If I may so bold, I would like to ask 4- important questions before concluding my message:

1.  Are you still on a “milk only” diet spiritually?

2.  Are you still reading devotionals which include a few tidbits of Scripture?  Like a baby in the high chair, going from “sucking” on the milk bottle’s nipple to “solid” finger food.

3.  Are you reading “Christian books” instead of The Book?

4.  Are you primarily listening to tapes or CD’s rather than your primary Teacher, the Holy Spirit?

If your answers are yes to all of the questions or even one yes…you need to change your dietary habits.  It’s been long enough–it’s time to GROW UP!