Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Complete Joy of the Beloved

          Because the word of God is “living and active,”[1] and because it is taught to us by the personal presence of the Holy Spirit,[2] I take it very seriously when anything stands out as I prayerfully meditate on the Scriptures. I know that my Father has plans and purposes far beyond what I can possibly understand, so it is always with great anticipation that I welcome whatever it seems that he is doing.
          Earlier this week I was all set to consider the next “by this” statement of I John, when an unexpected word took center stage. It was the one word John used to address his readers. He called them, “Beloved.”[3]
          “Beloved.” What a fascinating word. As an adjective, it can describe what someone or something is like. However, as a noun, it describes the very identity of the person or people who are the subject of the conversation. In this case, John wants his readers to know that they are the Beloved.
          I am one of his readers.
          However, while the word “beloved” stood out as a wonderful ministry to my soul, it was the reaction of my soul that added a strong measure of significance to the work that God was doing. My soul does not have an easy time thinking of myself as beloved. It appeared that this was the very thing Father was addressing.
          In one word, the Holy Spirit (the real subject of my meditation, or so I thought[4]) taught me, or reminded me, of who I am, and, at the same time, exposed how little I know this. The two go together.
          When God speaks to us through his word, he is on a mission to fulfill all his purposes regarding conforming us to the image of his Son.[5] Guess what. His Son is the Beloved. When God wanted to make clear how securely we were settled in his blessings, he wrote, In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”[6]
          God the Father has blessed us in his “Beloved.” He settled our eternal adoption “in love”, so that we could become his “beloved.” Later he calls us to, “be imitators of God, as beloved children,”[7] to show that our adoption as his sons makes us beloved in the Beloved, so to speak.
          After accepting that God was ministering this one word to my soul in order to meet my need “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,”[8] the next morning drew my attention to the fact that it was John who was calling his readers Beloved. This was beyond the love of God showing John that he was the beloved disciple,[9] but was now the expression of God’s love flowing through John so that people were learning of their beloved identity to an older brother in the Lord.
          What this ministered to me was that, not only would God continually fill my need for his love until I could truly know that I am beloved in the Beloved, but he would so fill my heart with his love that I would see all the rest of God’s children as beloved.
          This reminded me of one of John’s aims in writing his letter to the church. He said, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”[10] It makes sense that, if there is fellowship between the apostles, the Triune, and the church, that the love of God that makes us beloved to him would also make us beloved to one another.
          Which leads to the thing that stood out to me this morning. As I was about to consider how God was working to fill up my love cup, so to speak, so much so that his love would flow through me to make others feel beloved, my attention was drawn to something else that John had presented as his aim.
          After telling us that he wrote this letter to build up fellowship between the apostles, the Triune, and the church, John added, “We write this to make our joy complete.”[11] The fellowship between God and his church, including leaders and followers all sharing in the same beloved relationship, will do something to complete our joy.
          Except that, I had not noticed that John said “our joy.” That is from his perspective, not mine. He did not say “your joy”, as though he was writing something to complete the church’s joy. He said “our joy” to draw attention to the fact that he was including himself in the picture.
          In other words, John wrote his letter to the beloved children of God so that the whole church could experience completeness of joy together. He described it later like this, “For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”[12]
          From John’s viewpoint, the ultimate joy was to hear that “my children” are walking in the truth. His children were the spiritual children of God, those he was over in the Lord as an apostle. He could not know a greater joy than to know that the beloved were walking in the truth.
          As I now consider how determined John was to convince the beloved that they were in the truth, and that they were in Christ, and that God was in them, I realize that everything was about completing “our joy” by getting everyone “walking in the truth.” He wrote his letter in order to show the church how to walk in the truth in such a way that there was fellowship between God and his people, and this kind of fellowship in the truth would complete the joy of all the people involved, leaders and followers alike.
          This explains why some of us have so much difficulty accepting that we are beloved. The experience of knowing we are beloved comes from walking together in the truth, which means experiencing a corporate sense of fellowship with God and his people at the same time.
          Except that getting close to people has turned out to be one of the most painful experiences for many of us. Share a bit of your heart, and out come the hob-nail boots to trample feelings into the dirt. If the majority vote counts at all, too many people have declared that we are not beloved. People do not feel beloved themselves, and do not know how to treat anyone else as beloved.
          Hence John’s purpose. He wrote a letter to get us all together with the apostles, and with God, so that we could have the kind of fellowship that completes our joy. Which means that we must have enough faith to tell God we will join with other believers, looking to him as the primary source of our beloved-experience, hoping that the tide of love will come in and lift up all our hearts at the same time so that we all feel beloved together, and asking him to so glorify himself in us that other people would feel beloved because of our fellowship with them, and with God.
          You know, this kinda has that sounds-impossible feel to it that is a fairly good indicator that it is the will of God. The will of man wants safe churches run by a core group that is all comfortable with each other (yes, home churches are just as susceptible to this danger). The will of God is to build a church that is nothing like man, and everything like Jesus.
          To make such a church, Jesus has to build us up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (as represented here by John), with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone, [13] and us the living stones[14] who are being built together into the holy temple in which God can live by his Holy Spirit.[15]
          It is in such a church as this, where we are the beloved children of God in the Beloved Son of God,[16] that we can then “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”[17]
          By the time of this writing, I had processed so many thoughts and feelings about myself, God, and others, that I have the faith to ask God for this: that he would make the adults in our churches so full of the experience of their beloved identity, and so overflowing with love that they make each other feel beloved, that the wonderful fellowship between God and his people would not only complete the joy of all the adults involved, but would make the children feel that they are surrounded with a love and joy that could only come from one place, from the all-encompassing love and joy of God.
          Oh yes, John also wrote this for our encouragement, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”[18] Makes my praying about such things feel rather hopeful.
© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Hebrews 4:12
[2] John 14:26
[3] I John 4:1
[4] I had just finished the “by this” statement of, “And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (I John 3:24), and was heading into the next “by this” statement of, “By this you know the Spirit of God” (I John 4:2), when the “beloved” that introduced the new section became the focus.
[5] Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:28-30
[6] Ephesians 1:4-6
[7] Ephesians 5:1
[8] Ephesians 3:19
[9] John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20
[10] I John 1:3
[11] I John 1:4
[12] 3 John 1:3-4
[13] Ephesians 2:20
[14] I Peter 2:5
[15] Ephesians 2:21-22
[16] Ephesians 1:4-6
[17] Ephesians 5:1-2
[18] I John 5:14-15

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