The Art of Abiding

The Art of Abiding

Series: A deep dive into 1 John
Theme: The Art of Abiding
Bible Reading: 1 John 2:15-17
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Date: 2 January, 2022

Continuing our slower paced worship for the summer break and the fourth sermon in our 1 John series. This week we dive deep into 3 verses of chapter 2 and learn about life, and being close to Jesus and Phil shares a great illustration to bring it all together.

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This is sermon #4 in our 1 John series – and we are half way through the second chapter.  To give a quick summary of where we are up to … 1 John is about love but it is also about light and life.

1 John was written by the apostle John and John tells us in both the letter and his gospel (the gospel of John) that Jesus came to reveal something to us … Life … abundant life … amazing life.  It is not just something that we can know about we can feel it, touch it, experience it.

We have learnt about some Greek words in the first three sermons such as Psyche Life – which refers to the ordinary life with its ups and downs.  We also learnt Aeon Zoe – Eternal Life.  The amazing life that Jesus came to show us … which is not just after we die but we can have right now!

This life isn’t about managing the darkness; It’s about living in the light.   As John tells us in the gospel … it is the truth that will set us free. 

The other Greek word we have learnt is … Tel-e-os.  Teleos is a place of maturity in Jesus.  When we are made complete through following Jesus example of Love and loving others. 

Today we are going explore the short bible passage we had in our bible reading.  It starts – Verse 15.  Do not love the world, or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

John starts with this instant polarisation between the world and God.  God should be loved and the world should not be loved.  This is actually slightly ironic.  What is John’s most famous verse in his gospel? John 3:16 … for God so loved the world … God loves the world but we are called not to. 

So which is it?  We are not supposed to love the world but God apparently loves the world so much that she sent his only son.

Well as you might already know, the Greek language has numerous words for love and even within say agape there is a fair bit of elasticity in it.  John will often use agape for the unconditional love of God but also when saying something like “I love holidays”.  In this verse I think it is more helpful to interpret the word Love as fond.  Have a listen to how I have paraphrased it … Be careful how fond you become with the things of this world because it can make it tough to love God.

Do you get what it is saying?  John is not saying that the world and everything in it is bad and that we should hate it, rather, he is saying that when we get too caught up in the things of this world we fall into the trap of not focusing our love on God. 

John goes on in the rest of the chapter to explains why we need to be careful not to get too attached to the world, but before he gets to this he gives us a list of things that we could have trouble getting too attached to.

Verse 16,17 – For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

These verses have some interesting elements to it in the Greek and actually in a previous church I put together a handout where we tried our own translation – which I have put up on our Facebook page and website if you wish to have a look … but for now we will just step through it together. 

A few things to note:

The first part of verse 16 is an interesting play on words – Desire of the Flesh and the Lust of the eyes.  Sort of picking up the idea of both Body and mind and how we can be distracted by both.

The next phrase “The pride of life”.  Now we have learnt the Greek words for life Zoe & Psyche … but this is actually a third word for life Bios.  Bios is sort of like Psyche but it can also be translated livelihood … or the pride of your stuff.

So John is saying … the things of the world are not bad, they can be great … but be careful because these things will ultimately all pass away.  But there is something, John says, that is eternal, that is worth pursuing more … eternal life.

Actually the Greek doesn’t use Aeon Zoe at this point to refer to eternal life, but rather it uses a phrase Meno Aion which can be translated eternal life but literally means “remains in God forever” … or an even better English word would be “Abide”.  That those who do God’s will, whoever walks in the light, will abide in God forever.   This Greek word Meno is a beautiful word as it gives this idea being completely surrounded and encased by God.  Like a child resting in the arms of a parent.

So –a simple paraphrase of these two verses might be something like – “Be careful not to get too attached to the things of this world.  Rather, lean into God’s way and discover a life that embraces and holds you, a life that will never end”.

I say again, John is not saying that the things of this world is bad and should be avoided.  Rather, we need to make sure that we don’t let the things of this world take our focus off Jesus and the life that Jesus offers.

I was listening to a sermon on this passage by a bloke called Shane Hipps who used a great example of what it means find this balance between the things of this world and Abide in Jesus.  This illustration really summed up for me the point that John is making in these three verses.

Shane was saying how he took his 5 year old daughter to the local town carnival (like the Royal Easter Show). It was at night time, there was bright lights, loud music, rides, food and lots and lots of people.  Now was this a good place or a bad place for his daughter? It was good – a carnival is meant to be enjoyed.  It is a place of fun and entertainment and enjoyment.  

So he was walking along with this daughter, hand in hand, and she is buzzing with excitement.  With all the lights and music and energy – it was amazing.  After a while she let go of his hand and walked beside him.  As they walked through the hustle and bustle, just for the briefest of moments, they were separated.  Shane could still see his daughter but she realised that she couldn’t see him.  At that moment, the carnival was not very fun anymore.  It suddenly became a very frightening place to be. 

But just when this little girl was about to burst into tears, her dad came beside her and grabbed her hand again, and then everything was ok.

What changed?  Did the festival change?  No.  But the little girl’s relationship with the festival changed depending on whether she was close to her father or not. 

Can you see where this is going?  This world can be a bit like the festival.  It is meant to be enjoyed, it is meant to be good and fun and exciting.  But every now and again life can suddenly turn and become a very frightening and sometimes dangerous place.  We can’t change the things of this world … but we can change the way we relate to it.  And that all depends on how close we are to Jesus … whether we are abiding in God or not. 

If we choose to bind ourselves only to the things of this world that are passing away … then guess what … we are too.  But if we choose to bind ourselves the person who is eternal … then we are too.

We if bind ourselves to the things that will ultimately end up as dust, then we share in their fate.  But Jesus has come to say to us that this does not have to be the case.  Jesus holds out his hand and offers that we can abide in him.  And when we do, our relationship with the world changes, we find ourselves enjoying the good things of this world without getting stuck in them, we find ourselves living the abundant life that Jesus came to offer us. 

May that be our experience today.  Amen.