Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim.
The Tiny Thread of a Root-- A few years ago I remember I had to undergo the task of pulling out numerous bush-like weeds that had grown up through the cement of my family’s back porch. And what amazed me was how such large weeds could protrude from such tiny little cracks. In other places on the porch, however, there were other weeds that had become withered and died. Both had received the same amount of rain and sunshine, and yet some flourished while others faded away. The key to the life of those that flourished wasn’t found in what they themselves could absorb from their environment, but rather upon a tiny thread of a root that (through the almost imperceptible cracks) connected them to the earth beneath the pavement. And the same is true of us. Jesus says to His disciples in…
John 15:4 (ESV)-- 4 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.
The Key To Life-- Now what John is doing here in our passage today here in 1 John 4:12-17 is he’s expounding a little bit on what Jesus was saying, reminding his readers that the key to life itself lies in our abiding in Christ; we must abide in Him and He must abide in us. Take note as we read verses 12-17 just how many times we come across the keyword “abide” and the keyword “in”:
1 John 4:12-17 (ESV)-- 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
Our Spiritual Transplant-- So here we see the process by which the believer comes to abide in the family of God. We confess that Jesus is the Son of God (v 15) and then immediately in that same verse we see that after confession God abides in the Christian and the Christian in God. And in that abiding we experience two things. The first is the love of God for us; and the second is the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. And really the Spirit is the secret to the life of the Christian. He is the One who shapes us into the image of Christ to where we are holy and righteous (John even says “in this world”) as he is. In fact, it is helpful to think of the Holy Spirit as the Holy-making Spirit because His chief role is to make us like Christ. And it is the sense of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives that John says confirms that we are in Jesus. It says in…
1 John 4:13 (ESV)— 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
Kinlaw on The Role of the Holy Spirit-- Now one scholar I read often points out here how: [the Spirit whom Jesus gave to his disciples was not just the third person of the Trinity; it was the Spirit who had empowered Jesus’ own life and ministry. The secret to Jesus’ life was the Spirit, and the Spirit is anxious to be the secret of your life and mine. The Spirit was the one who initiated Christ’s conception. It was he who anointed Jesus at his baptism. The word Christ means “anointed,” so it was the Spirit who made Jesus the Christ. It was the Spirit who led Jesus and sustained him through his temptation in the wilderness. The Spirit was the source of Jesus’ power over the demonic, and the Spirit enabled him to endure the Cross. The writer of Hebrews speaks of Christ as the one “who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God” (Heb. 9:14). It was the Spirit who, with the Father, raised Jesus from the dead. The Spirit was the key to the earthly life of Jesus. Now on Jesus’ last night before the Cross, he told his disciples that he wanted them to have the same one in their lives who had been in his own. He promised them the Holy Spirit. And that promise is to you and me as well.]
A Spirit-empowered Love-- Now when the Spirit re-makes us in the image of Christ, the Christian finds that their life becomes characterized by love. Not the world’s standard of love (which is incredibly shallow) but rather the kind of self-sacrificial love that Jesus embodied and demonstrated on the cross; the kind of love that John has been talking about in and throughout this entire epistle. That kind of love is what separates Christianity from mere religion.
Getting On The Cross-- It’s as someone once said: [“Religion is hanging around the Cross; Christianity is getting on the Cross."] Abiding in Jesus means we will also abide in and share His sacrificial love. John says in…
1 John 4:12 (ESV)-- 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
The Best Preacher-- [Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, famous British preacher, had five sons, all of whom became ministers of the gospel. One day a visitor in their home dared to ask a personal question: “Which of you six is the best preacher?” Their united answer was “Mother!” Of course, Mrs. Morgan had never preached a formal sermon in a church, but her life was a constant sermon on the love of God.] And that is what our lives are supposed to be as well; a constant sermon on the love of God. But that love does not begin in us, but rather starts with our first accepting Jesus Christ and His love for us. John says in…
1 John 4:14-16a (ESV)— 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.
From Vertical to Horizontal-- Before anything else, we must accept and receive the love that God has for us. And that means accepting Christ. It is only when that vertical relationship with God is healed through the work of Jesus that the Holy Spirit can come in and begin to transform our horizontal relationships with one another. And He will. Once we begin to abide in Christ, not only do we connect ourselves with eternal life, but also with the source of Love. And that forever changes our relationships with other people; to the point where we become identified by the love of Christ. John says in…
1 John 4:16b-17 (ESV)— God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
Cleansing of The Heart— Now how this works is that the Holy Spirit works in us a cleansing of the heart. Cleansing from what? Sin, yes; but what does that look like? What is sin? Sin is more than an act of disobedience. It is an orientation of the heart; an orientation that has been shifted from seeking to please and obey God to seeking our own wants and desires and placing them first.
The Two Men and The Two Fish-- [You may have heard the story of two friends who met for dinner in a restaurant. Each requested filet of sole, and after a few minutes the waiter came back with their order. Two pieces of fish, a large and a small, were on the same platter. One of the men proceeded to serve his friend. Placing the small piece on a plate, he handed it across the table. "Well, you certainly do have nerve!" exclaimed his friend. “ What's troubling you?" asked the other. "Look what you've done," he answered. "You've given me the little piece and kept the big one for yourself." "How would you have done it?" the man asked. His friend replied, "If I were serving, I would have given you the big piece." "Well," replied the man, "I've got it, haven't I?" At this, they both laughed.]
The Selfless Mark-- The mark of a transformed, abiding Christian is that all that he/she does is not ultimately for themselves, but for the glory of God, which also means a placing of the needs of others before your own. That is the essence of love.
[LOVE OF A DISCIPLE-- Clement of Alexandria, describing the person who has come to know God, wrote, "He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.”]
The Self-Emptying of Jesus-- As I was reading this quote, I began thinking about the self-emptying of Jesus. Jesus impoverished Himself; lowered Himself; bore our sins in our very flesh which He took on. In the same way we are to empty ourselves for one another and for Him. Our selfishness; our sin must give way to abiding in the Love of Christ and allowing that love to move us to give ourselves to others as Christ gave Himself for us.
The question is, have we gotten on the cross? Are we living lives of sacrifice for other people that is characteristic of Christ’s own sacrifice for us? That is the mark of the Spirit-filled believer; and it is something that John comes to time and time again. And so we come full circle to the question of abiding. Are we just going through the religious motions? Or are we connecting ourselves (like that weed through the pavement) to Christ, the source of real, genuine, Spirit-filled Life? It is so easy to lose sight of what matters. The Ephesians John was writing to in this passage had become disconnected from God. And John wanted them to cast their roots and begin to connect back.
And today, that is what God is asking us to do. Now maybe you don’t feel able enough or strong enough to cast deep roots; and that’s okay. You might feel like the pavement is just a little too thick. But you know what, if you are willing to ask God to meet you where you’re at, He will bring His ground up to you and help you to get deeper into Him. But it begins with our asking; our invitation to Him to allow Him in. And so let us invite Him in today. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.