Monday, May 24, 2010

Grow! Grow! Grow!

Photo credit.

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Sunday Morning, May 23, 2010

1 John 2:12-14: “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to receive a letter from someone like the Apostle John? I mean, if he were writing a letter to us – today – what would he include in such a letter? What would he say to us?

I had the unique opportunity and privilege this last week to be the scribe, the secretary for a friend of mine who asked me to help him put together a letter he wanted to send to a friend of his in prison. It wasn’t that my friend needed help construction what he wanted to say in the letter. As he dictated the letter to me, there was no doubt in my mind that he KNEW what he wanted to communicate to his prisoner friend. The reasons for his letter and the intentions he had in mind to accomplish through his letter were very clear to him. All he need was a scribe – I was that scribe!

I want you to take a look at this Book. What is it? What do we have here before us? We call it the Word of God, don’t we? We refer to it as the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, the Book of books. But, what I want you to consider with me this morning is how that this Book – this best of Books – is, in fact, God’s letter to you and to me. Oh, yes, I know that it was penned - inspired - transcribed two, three - in some cases - nearly 4,000 years ago, and yet because it is Holy Scripture, a word from our Infinite and Eternal God, it is a time-less, or perhaps I should say “for all times…” Book. It is in fact a letter from God in this case, through the apostle John, to us – to us!

What kind of letter do we have here? What is it that the Spirit of God has prompted the apostle John to write to us? And, what are we to learn from it? What are we to do in response to it?

The first thing I was reminded of - as I sat on my couch last week, with pen and paper in hand preparing to serve as my friend’s scribe - was that a letter, at least the way we write letters, begins with a greeting, an introduction, an address to the recipient of the letter. “Dear Friend,” were the words I jotted in behalf of my friend in the letter he wanted to write. But, look at what the Spirit of God directed the apostle John to write; he addresses us in a similar way in verse 12. He speaks to us as “little children”. In verse 13, he addresses some as “young men” and others as “fathers”. And, the same goes for verse 14, as well: “little children,” “young men,” “fathers”. Why would God prompt John to use words and phrases like that to address folks like us? Well, perhaps it is meant to communicate the love and concern that God and this servant of His, the apostle John, have for folks like us. When God looks at those who belong to Him, through His Son, He looks at them (at us) as His children! As those who are DEAR to Him!

Another reason I figure the apostle John uses the different ways of addressing his recipients – “little children,” “young men,” and “fathers” – is because he’s looking at a congregation of believers in Jesus, made up of various individual Christians who are at different levels of spiritual growth and maturity. Each are dear and cherished by their spiritual mentor, the apostle John; but each are at various locations on the road toward maturity in Christ.

The Spirit of God led John the Apostle to address his readers, the recipients of his letter, using differing words – words meant to express tender concern – and words meant to acknowledge the unique spiritual location of each person reading the letter. And, yet, I’d like you to think about this part of the letter – the beginning part – for just a moment or two longer. Could it be, that at least part of the reason for the different forms of address here, in verses 12 through 14, is not merely to acknowledge the varying degrees of spiritual maturity present in a congregation such as this one, but also to spur each one of us – “little children,” “young men,” even “fathers” to greater levels of spiritual growth?

I mean, you think about it with me, will you? “Little children” – “spiritual babes” we might call them, as far a God is concerned, that’s the starting point, the beginning place for all of us - when it comes to our walk with Christ. In fact, Jesus said that unless we become as children, we cannot enter His kingdom! But, listen. Listen. While “little children” may be a great starting point – hear me, please – as far as our Father in heaven is concerned, it is no supposed to be the ENDING POINT, too!

Grow, little children; grow toward young manhood. Grow, young men; grow toward fatherhood. Grow, yes grow, fathers, grow to be even more like your Father in Heaven! Grow! Grow! Grow!

In looking at a letter, like this one here, or even in transcribing a letter – as I did last week – there’s something to learn, something worth noticing with respect to the way in which the letter writer addresses the recipient. But, then – secondly, there is something to gain from examining the CAUSE behind the letter, too! Take a look again at these three short verses, and let the Beloved Apostle – “John, tell us, will you. Why did you write this letter?”

Now look at verses 12, 13 and 14, and notice how very clearly and powerfully the apostle John answers that question for us. “I write to you because…”

1 John 2:12-14: “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.

What is the Spirit of God meaning for us to see through these because statements? Well, the first thing I believe He intends is a very simple thing. Think of it, “I write to you, little children, BECAUSE your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake…” “I write to you, young men, BECAUSE…” I write to you, fathers, BECAUSE…” Through these “because” statements the Spirit of God directed John to inform us of this simple truth: this is a letter for Christians. This is a love letter from God the Father to those who have come to belong to Him, through Jesus Christ. In other words, this letter was not designed to be an evangelistic tract, a gospel pamphlet to be distributed to those who are OUTSIDE of Christ. But rather, it was meant to be a tool for edifying and equipping God’s people. And notice how it accomplishes that goal: it does so by bringing folks like us back to the foundation of our faith, forgiveness of sin, knowing Christ – the Word of God abiding in us, and waging war against the enemy of our souls!

Dear Friend,” “little children,” “young men,” “fathers” - these are the ways letter writers address the recipients of their letters. “I write to you because…” Because your sins have been forgiven for His name’s sake; because you have known Him Who is from the beginning; because you have overcome the wicked one. “I write to you because,” these statements let us in on what prompted a letter like this letter.

But, then, go one step further with me in this look at John’s letter to us. I want us to consider what John might have intended – the goal the Spirit of God had in mind – when He directed John to write what he wrote. “I write to you BECAUSE your sins have been forgiven for His name’s sake!” As we pointed out earlier, this statement – and the 5 or 6 other “because statements listed here – are powerful reminders of a Christian’s spiritual state or status in Christ!

In Christ we are forgiven. In Christ we are known BY and able to know God the Father. Yes, in Christ we are strong and victorious because of God’s indwelling word! But, listen. With every one of those “because” statements as to our spiritual status, comes an implied exhortation, a challenge, a command! Verse 12 – Yes, dear children, in Christ your lives are marked by the forgiveness of your sins!

But, don’t stop there! Grow! Children, grow! Pursue a life of sinning LESS and confessing MORE! That’s the way toward greater spiritual maturity! Grow with respect to dealing with your sin! Remember 1 John 2:1-2?

1 John 2:1-2: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the whole world.”

And you, young men, I write to you “because you have overcome the wicked one!” Because you have won some victories, in Christ, over lust and greed and pride and anger. But, don’t stop there! Grow! Arm yourselves with more of God’s holy armor. Stand firm in His strength, and most of all keep fighting, because there are MORE battles ahead, and MORE victories to win – in Jesus Christ! Grow!

Then, thirdly, the apostle John speaks to the fathers, to those who have grown spiritually to such a point that they now are helping to give birth to spiritual children. What does the apostle John say to them? He says, “Grow!” Yes, through the implied exhortation wrapped up in his “because you have known Him who is from the beginning” statement, the apostle John challenges even the spiritually mature to keep on growing! You have know Him! Yearn to know Him MORE. To the spiritual fathers among us, maybe the apostle John is urging you to say back to him, “I want to know Him more! Would you make room for me, allow me to lean with you on His breast!” “I want to know Him more!” Or, how about the spiritual mothers in our midst - that should be your plea as well! “Make room – sweet Mary of Bethany – make room for me at Jesus’ feet!” “I want to know Him,” “I want to soak up all that He has to say!”

If the apostle John were to write us a letter, today, what kind of letter would he write? What would he say to us? In this letter, intended originally for Christians living in Asia Minor near the end of the First Century AD – he wrote to the tender little children - the spiritual babes – to the strong young men, and to the spiritual fathers of those congregations. And he wrote because of the spiritual fruit, the fruits of repentance and salvation that were evident in them.

I wonder, if John were writing me a letter, a letter to us, would he be able to list the same series of “because” statements? Would he? Furthermore, I wonder – if our lives were “letters”, written on the tablets of other Christians’ hearts (see 2 Corinthians 3:1ff), what message from the Lord would those Christian brothers and sisters be receiving? I wonder…

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