Key Verse: Hebrews 5:11-14
Key Passage: The Book of I John
I love going back to Italy. Having lived there, it’s always a ‘homecoming’ of sorts when I get the privilege of returning – especially to the northern areas.
This time, my husband Eddie and I were headed into Italy’s Lake District to see its largest lake, Lago di Garda. This time I had chosen the little town of Malcesine (just a stone’s throw from where I had learned to windsurf) as our stopping point. This lovely, small town sports a castle, and a bird’s-eye view of the lake from Mt Baldo, which is serviced by its funicular (a mountainside cable car). Away from the ‘touristy’ area of the lake, I thought it would be a great place to spend a warm, sunny afternoon & evening.
Clearly, so did everyone else.
We had boarded the boat-taxi from the port town of Peschiera early, and had hoped to get in front of the tourist crowds. It had been a good plan, but we stepped off our boat into a sea of people, and the dock was too crowded to even navigate across.
I was crushed.
My dream of having a quiet, peaceful afternoon sipping something yummy on the shore while the sun glistened on the waves, was absolutely dashed. So much for smelling the lemon groves in the air, and watching the brilliantly colored sailboats glide by.
The crowd pushed in on every side as we made our way to the castle. As we waited in line to pay the ridiculous fee to see the castle ruins (from the inside), I took a breath and tried to adjust my attitude. Eddie was in a much better mood, and he encouraged me to enjoy taking some pictures as he savored the breathtaking views of the lake. I probably would have done better if I hadn’t had to wait in more lines for the best viewing and photo taking spots…
I then decided I would be happier above the crowd on the top of Mt Baldo, so off to the funicular that would take us there, we went.
We dove back into the mobs of tourists that were cramming the streets. What caught my attention – and did absolutely nothing for my worsening mood – was the number of people yelling, complaining, and more concerned with their ‘selfies’ than what they could gain from their vacation. Sadly, you don’t need to know a person’s language to know when they are not happy campers.
For a brief moment, I decided that these ‘tourists’ were frivolous and shallow, without a purpose for being here, and well, just needed to go home.
I took a little boastful pride in the fact that at least I was keeping my thoughts and my current disposition to myself. I was also feeling a tad cocky about the fact that I like to travel intentionally, and consider myself a ‘traveler’ and not a ‘tourist’ (Eddie disagrees). I do my research. I’m prepared with all kinds of information of what I’m seeing and doing. Rick Steves (the famed ‘Europe Through the Backdoor’ guy) would be proud. I know what I want to get out of an experience and why I’m there, but mostly I look to know my God better. I love getting to know Him more intimately through history, art, architecture, and on this day… the beauty of nature.
After getting my feet stepped on, and bumped into repeatedly, we finally arrived at the back of the line for the cable car to Mt. Baldo. It was then that I noticed the sign that flashed a 3 hour wait time to board the funicular. I’m not normally prone to open displays of temper, but everything inside of me wanted to jump up onto the nearest boulder and command every tourist there to “GET OUT OF MY CITY!”.
Not fully understanding how I didn’t see myself as a tourist, Eddie in his calm but firm way, took note of the steam exploding from my reddening ears and carried me by the arm back through the crowd, back out onto the dock, and onto the next boat headed north.
I was informed that we were going to enjoy the lake from the topside of the boat as we sailed the entire perimeter of the lake. We made a couple of short but strategic ice cream stops, and it turned out to be a wonderful rest of the day.
After being given a chance to compose myself, I did have to explore the reason for such intense emotion. I also took a deep breath and let God remind me that I’m in the wrong when I give myself over to a bad attitude. I’m also out of line to label other tourists as ‘shallow’, and remember that we did, after all, take a selfie or two. I felt humbled and repentant.
But I was also encouraged to remember that, although it’s contrary to His will to be judgmental, it is right to have purpose with what I’m doing in my life and travels, and it is especially right to be ‘growing deeper’ in my relationship to Him.
Which brings us to our key passage for this week:
“11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrew 5:11-14
To be growing deeper in our faith should be a daily prayer – an every moment striving. As we grow, we come to realize that God’s teaching and training takes place in the smallest details of everyday life, as well as the big events He doesn’t let us miss.
For this next week, take a look at the areas of your relationship with Christ that need some growing. They will probably be related to the areas of the rest of your life that need a little of the same.
TO GET STARTED READ: I JOHN
So, just what does it mean to be growing deeper with Him? Let’s take a look at this little book of 1 John. In 5 short chapters, John describes what ‘going deeper’ really means for the Christian. He is simple and direct.
He also emphasizes that depth in Christ centers around:
Right doctrine (truth); Right living (obedience); and Right relationships (love).
So…let’s get going. Let’s grow a little deeper!
1). RIGHT DOCTRINE:
I John 4:3 sums it up: “but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.”
In the age of ’whatever works for you’, God makes clear that there is only one way, one path that leads to eternity and relationship with God. That way is knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and God. Jesus, the God-in-flesh who was without sin, died to rescue us from sin, was resurrected, and has ascended back to the Father. Nothing else works. Nothing else can restore what was lost through sin. Nothing else is truth.
Are there any ‘truths’ that have you ensnared? Time to weed them out!
I John 5:11-12 gives us confidence: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Now that’s a truth to hang your hat on! There is so much un-truth that the world would have you believe. But hang on to this one simple truth and it will be a foundational stone on which the rest of your life can be built. A measuring stick that any other ‘truth’ can be set up against. The divining rod that exposes lies. Crawl up into the arms of Jesus where this truth not only sets you free, but gives you ultimately security!
It’s so easy to get caught up with trying to do ‘right’ things and avoid ‘wrong things’, that sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Savior just wants to be together with you and make you feel safe.
I John 1:1-4 ends with: “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full...”
So how’s the JOY in your life? Not the happiness, mind you, that comes and goes with your circumstances, but the joy that comes despite your circumstances. Focusing on deeper intimacy with Christ brings joy to all parts of your life, because growing more intimate with Him means hearing His voice better. When you begin to discern the voice of God, He will begin to work out His will for your life. He will guide your choices and decisions, and joy comes from that intimacy.
This week, examine how you define joy. Make sure it is the same definition as God’s.
I John 1:6-2:2 tells us that even though we are not without sin, He is. And He gives His forgiveness freely.
Yikes. We live in a world that doesn’t like to hear the word sin. We make ‘mistakes’ and have ‘issues’. We give sin labels and claim that it’s not our fault. But here in our passage we find that we deceive ourselves when we refuse to call a sin a sin. Depth in Christ requires living in Truth and right doctrine. Fortunately, God forgives willingly. His only requirements are for us to be in agreement with Him that our sin is indeed…a sin, and then asking for forgiveness.
Take a look this week at areas you might be unwilling to admit are wrong. Let God ‘deep clean’ you from the inside out. Submit to some internal ‘scrubbing’, and your intimacy with God will flourish.
2). RIGHT LIVING:
In 1 John 1:5-7; 2:3-6; 3:7-10, we learn that we were made to live substantive lives in Jesus Christ.
The dictionary defines substantive as: ‘having a firm basis in reality and therefore important, meaningful, or considerable. Having substance.’
This verse tells us that God intends our lives to be significant. And not just our spiritual lives, but our whole lives. From our home life and family relationships, to our careers and friends, hobbies, and even with our travels we are meant to live with substance. With meaning and value. When Christ is what everything in our lives revolves around, then everything has a purpose and life makes sense. It’s an ongoing process, this thing of giving everything over to God, but the journey is a great one!
I John 2:28 gives us the ability to live with great hope and anticipation: “And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before “Him at His coming”
That’s Right! He’s coming again to gather up His own to be with Him forever! What can be better than that? There is no better way to live than with hope, security and anticipation in knowing that what we have now is not all there is. How beautiful to live in the confidence that God has everything in His hands. For your life, for the future of the world, for all that is, He is in control.
Are there things that have left you afraid? Insecure? Hopeless? Time to leave them at the cross and cling to the truth that Christ offers you.
I John 3: 7-10 makes us understand that there is no room for compromise. “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”
Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the idea that sin is fun, and therefore hard to completely let go of. While it’s true that we will fall, it’s important to receive forgiveness and get right back up and onto the right road. Giving in to sin and continuing in its evil path is not in the nature of someone who is on an intimate journey with Christ. It’s a lie straight from the pit of hell, that sin is fun and the narrow road with Christ is hard and unfulfilling. The pull comes from our sin nature, but the more we resist it, the more the spirit-filled life will feel abundant and full. Remember, too, that the world judges God by what they see in us. So let’s live lives that are meaningful, abundant and authentic.
Are there some things that are not in line with God’s first best for you? Something that you think God might ‘understand’ about? Pray about the things God is asking you to surrender.
3). RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS:
I John 2:15-17 gives us a glimpse into the Father’s heart: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 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. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
God knows that we battle our sin nature, and He is forgiving. What we don’t think about, though, is how much He is in love with us. Just as we would be hurt if our spouse battled the desire for someone else, so does our Savior hurt when our desire is not first for Him. Sometimes, just letting this truth sink in makes all the difference. Let’s not be like the church of Laodicea who had lost their ‘first love’. Let’s value and nurture our relationship with the Lord. Let’s work at keeping Him in first position. Let Him help you learn how to truly love Him. He is the author of Love, after all…
I John 3:18-20 makes clear that when we have a right relationship with Him, it’ll show in our relationships with others: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence”.
God is all about relationships. Love relationships. God-honoring connections with other people – especially with those also in the body of Christ. I love the way the Message version of the Scriptures translates this passage:
“My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves”
This translation makes me understand that it’s not only God’s will that we love others, it’s actually in my best interest! It can make me more emotionally healthy. Yes, God really does know what’s best for us, and He uses relationships to carry out His work and His will.
He also uses love and relationships to further the Gospel, and reveal Himself to others. In verses 16-17 of this 3rd chapter of I John, the Message translation says,
“This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.”
Wow. That’s pretty intense. Can we really make God’s love disappear? For someone else’s perception, I guess the answer is, “yes”.
I guess it’s time to understand that going ‘deep’ with God means going deep with other people. This also means that the reverse is true. When we truly love others, our intimacy with God grows.
I hope that your week will be full and rich as you seek to ‘Grow Deeper’ in Christ.
“Travel is more than seeing the sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” –Miriam Beard
“There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God. When you truly know God, you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him, and contentment in Him.” –J.I. Packer
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