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Monday, June 17, 2013

I'll be back

I haven't had a lot of time to blog in the last couple of months. I won't bore you with my whiny excuses. It is what it is. When I do blog, I try to be interesting, informative and thought-provoking. I'm not above using certain key-words, catch phrases or tantalizing titles in an effort to stimulate readership. Sorry. I'm a writer. Part of being a writer is liking it when other people read your stuff.

That said, I found it ironic that after such a long layoff, my first post back is entitled, "I'm Leaving..." while the very next post (this one) is entitled, "I'll be back".

I didn't plan it that way; it just worked out.

In 1984, James Cameron directed a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger called The Terminator. Arnold played a cybernetic being from the future who had returned to the past in order to kill Sarah Connor, who would eventually be the mother of John Connor, who would eventually lead the resistance against the rise of the machines in the future…where The Terminator came from to…

Where do I take the driver's test?

You get the idea – all these time travel movies are confusing anyway. One of the most famous lines from the film was Arnold’s iconic, “I’ll be back.” If you've watched any of the Terminator films, you know that the machine is relentless; no matter what happened to it, it kept to its mission – its program. The first scene where the line, “I’ll be back,” is used is in a police station. The Terminator has been going around killing everyone in the city named Sarah Connor. He had tracked the right Sarah Connor to a police station. He went inside, asked the desk sergeant if he could see her because he was a friend. The desk sergeant looks up, gives him a busy bureaucrat answer and says if he wants to wait, there’s a bench right over there he can sit on.

Arnold looks around, analyzes the structure of the cage the desk sergeant is sitting in, then he leans forward and says, “I’ll be back.”

The desk sergeant doesn't even look up. A minute or so later, Arnold drives a speeding car through the front doors of the police station and through the sergeant’s cage, he gets out amidst the wreckage and starts shooting everyone in sight, with the single-minded purpose of completing his mission: killing Sarah Connor.

What is your single-minded purpose each day?

I'd like to talk to more people about being a Christian. Unlike a lot of my peers at church, my salvation experience is relatively recent (2001). For me, it’s hard sometimes to start each day with the thought, “I am going to do exactly what Jesus asks me to do today.”

The Terminator had a mission. He had a program that was very simple: Kill Sarah Connor. As Christians, we sometimes find it difficult to know exactly what Jesus wants us to do each day, because we don’t always hear from Him directly. We can’t sit down at the breakfast table with Jesus or carpool to work with Jesus or sit in the cubicle next to Jesus and just lean over and say, “What do I do in this situation?”

Don’t we have a program too?

Actually, we can carpool with Jesus – our program is called The Bible, and with audio Bibles, (reputable) radio teachers and other methods, we can review our instructions every single day.

Let’s look at a few specific directives Jesus gave us (Emphasis from

  1. Matthew 4:10 - Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'”
  2. Matthew 14:16 - But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!”
  3. Matthew 18:22 - Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
  5. Mark 12:17 - And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they were amazed at Him.
  6. Luke 10:37 - And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
  7. John 14:3 - “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
  8. John 14:23 - Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
  9. John 20:21 - So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
  10. Matthew 28:19-20 - Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

These are just a small sampling of direct quotes from Jesus in the New Testament wherein He is giving us – people who are living today – specific instructions. Think of them as lines of code in our daily program.

I was filling in as our small group teacher this week and our object verses were 1 John 2:28-29.

One thing I've noticed in our study of 1 John is that the Apostle John repeats himself a lot. I kind of wondered about that until I really started unpacking what he was trying to say. John was writing to believers in the early church. I surmise that John's purpose was somewhat similar to a computer program: he was reinforcing the original teachings that the church had been given so that believers would not be led astray. John used repetition and compare/contrast among other teaching strategies.

John wasn't trying to brainwash anyone - his audience were already believers - he was working to reinforce their faith so that the church would survive and the believer's faith would endure into the future. In 1 John 2:28, John urges his audience to abide in Jesus.

What does that mean?

  1. 1 John 2:5-6 – John teaches that abiding in Christ is synonymous with knowing him; having a personal relationship with him
  2. John 15:4-7 – Jesus gave us this illustration of Him being the vine and us being the branches. Without the vine, it is impossible for branches to bear fruit
  3. Revelation 6:15-17 – Many things were revealed to John during his prophetic experience on Patmos. These verses paint the picture of those who do not abide in Jesus and what their reaction will be upon his return.

I don't quote Revelation 6:15-17 as a hammer; so many people are turned off by the idea that God would take vengeance on those who do not believe in Him. My purpose for this blog is not to stand on a virtual street corner and shout anyone into Hell. I am simply looking at the context of what John is teaching in 1 John 2 and exploring the context of that instruction.

In a sense 1 John 2:28 is a microcosm – a small yet complete example – of what the New Testament is about after the Gospel is complete. The end of 1 John 2:28 reinforces how John does not – and God does not – want us, as believers, to be ashamed at the time of Jesus’ return. We've learned about all of the false gospels that were springing up during the time that John lived. Then and now, these false gospels pull believers away from the deep and abiding relationship that we forge with Jesus at the moment we receive His gift of salvation and make Him Lord over our lives.

In 1 John 2:29, John urges us to practice righteousness; what does it mean to practice righteousness?

The verses that we went through above are a good start. Being obedient to the instructions – the program – of Jesus looks like righteousness to me. Have you ever known someone in church (or who attended church regularly) who you just knew was a born-again believer only to find out that they were there serving, being kind, loving the children, helping others, etc. without having accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior?  The thing is, without salvation, we can be as righteous as we can humanly try to be and yet, we will not be seen by God as righteous.
  1. Philippians 1:9-11 - verse 11 clearly indicates that we cannot come into righteousness by our own power; it is something that must be received through/from Jesus
  2. Matthew 5:20
  3. Romans 10:10

So what does all this have to do with The Terminator? The Apostle John is trying to remind those early believers - and us - that we can't just sleepwalk through life. We can't just have a mountaintop experience with Jesus and then coast down the other side until either we die or He returns. Just as The Terminator was relentlessly purposeful in carrying out his instructions, so should we be equally purposeful in carrying out ours.

What do you think?


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