Text: I John 1:1-2:6
I love pictures. Like many of you, we have taken so many pictures and videos especially in this new digital era. From the days of films and waiting for a month before the camera guys comes around to the modern methods of instant photos- pictures speak in a powerful way. A good picture takes a good background, with appropriate lighting to create a memorable moment in life. Such is the story behind pictures of our families, the birth of a child, the new shoe or dress we bought, your first day in school, and your graduation pictures among other happy moments. In the movie world we say “CAMERA, LIGHTS, ACTION!
But although some of the pictures have lasted and we keep them to remember, it’s not always true that the moments created by these pictures also last. I read a story of a couple who after struggling for some time to find quality time as a family because of busy work schedules, They finally got the opportunity and they had a great time, a good affordable meal. They probably took a photo. After paying the bill, the man really feeling good about this achievement, they got into the car and the wife asked if he was given the right change. Of course he said. The wife asked to confirm only to find that it was less about 10 shillings.
Knowing their financial background, the wife could not take it that he would just let go of the 10 bob. The man in defense thought it was so trivial. She insisted that he has to go back for it…..and that was the end of the good moment. This sounds like me and my wife on many occasions. Just when you think you are in that good time moment, the good times just don’t seem to last long.
Sadly this is the state of many relationships today, we begin with those captured moments, excitement, laughter, fun but they just never seem to last. Arguments after hosting a good occasion, fights that pick up on Monday morning just before you go to work after a good weekend together? How can we create lasting moments in our relationships today? How can our families remain stable in a fast changing world?
We’ve had a great journey as a church and nation this year as we explored our 2017 theme “The Church Next Door” seeking to be relevant in our community and Nation. ……….Even as we await the re-elections, we are determined to heal and move on together. I am aware that a lot of our schedules and even economies have been destabilized in one way or another. As we continue in prayer for the country allow us to shift focus to rebuilding our nation and community through Meaningful Relationships.
Our series for this last term is dubbed “Stronger and Better Together” taken from Ecc 4:9-12, (Read) with the aim to fortify and celebrate significant relationships that make up a strong community and being intentional to Reach out to others through everyday relationships . Under this series, this month we look at Stronger and Better Families and today we ask “How can we invest in lasting moments with our families, with our marriages, with our children and with our siblings and parents.
It’s important to note that families are the building blocks of any Nation, society, whenever families fall apart the society also falls apart. But even more importantly as believers, our families are the building blocks of the church, similarly when the Christian family falls apart the church becomes weaker in its effectiveness and testimony.
But there are a lot of dynamics around us today that threaten the stability of our relationships especially in our families. Just when you finish paying the bills the car breaks down, you manage to meet the deadline only to be told there is a new set of goals or when you resolve a broken relationship with a work colleague but go home to a serious conflict with your spouse. Suffering is part of every person, every family and every believer. How do we remain stronger and better Together? How can we be Stable and create lasting memories despite these dynamics.
How can we create lasting moments- CAMERA, LIGHTS,ACTION- We must ask What Kind of Camera, What kind of Lights and what kind of Actions to take as believers.
Our key scripture for today and most of this series, was a pastoral letter written by John- the only surviving apostle at His time. Written about A.D 85 -90, Christianity had spread all over the Roman Empire for about a generation and had faced and survived severe persecution. The main problem confronting the church at this time was declining commitment, as many believers were now conforming to the world’s patterns, failing to stand up for Christ and compromising their faith and some even walking out of the fellowship. The stability of the fellowship was in question.
It is also important to note that false teachers came up with the gnostic teaching that in summary denied the incarnation – that Jesus physically existed. They had started to lose the clarity of the person of Jesus and in totality questioning if Jesus was really God and if He did really exist and if He really could save? This also affected the stability of the believers.
These very things still threaten our intimate fellowships and relationships today. Our world today pursues and glorifies health, success, strength and luxury and so when pain, loss, poverty and disease strike we are destabilized and we quickly fall out and too often the victim is our relationships, first with God and then with those close to us.
We can summarize these sufferings as:
1. Temptations to wrong behavior and attitudes- How can our families hold when the world splashes luring, images of sin, sexuality around us. How do we sail through unfaithfulness, deception, dishonesty, shame, guilt, secrecy?
2. Doubts about ourselves, others and God- how can we remain stable when we are insecure about even our own walk with God, with those close to us. The result is faithlessness
3. Sorrow: How do we remain stable in the face of sickness, loss of a job, loved one, opportunities, daily provision, loss of innocence, loss of parents, marriage- The result is depression, despair, regret and disappointment.
4. Conflict: How do we remain stable in the face of conflict, unmet expectations? Break-ups, Separation and divorces or run away children and neglected parents.
5. Falsehood/ teaching – How do we remain stable in the face of deceit, conmen, false churches, fake news. We are vulnerable to being manipulated, to being confused, to being abused, to being deceived.
Everyone here has suffered one of more of these kinds of sufferings.
We read from the 1 John 1-2:6
John opens his address by affirming his personal testimony and eye witness of Jesus. He had lived with him, he had walked and talked with him, saw him heal and saw him teach, watched him die, met him risen and saw him ascend. Jesus was so real to him and his conclusion was that Jesus is Eternal LIFE, and through Him we can have fellowship with the father.
To understand this passage, you will need to appreciate that John now was the last surviving apostle. He had lived to see Jesus but now also seeing a generation that seems to have forgotten about Jesus. Not only so, but John’s 3 years with Jesus while He was alive, He saw and heard and walked with Jesus and at this point he too struggled with who Jesus was and his teachings. It is only after Jesus died and resurrected when the Bible says in John 20:8 that seeing this, He believed. What did He see, when Mary came and told them the Lord’s body was missing. John outran Peter to Jesus tomb and he was a first- hand witness to the resurrection of Jesus. That was his turning point- everything Jesus had said about himself had now come true in his eyes and it was not just what he saw, but something was revealed to him. He now saw Jesus through the right Camera. Jesus truly was what He said, eternal LIFE.
His relationship with Jesus on earth had led him to Fellowship with the Father. He came to the conviction that Jesus is God’s LIFE revealed to human life and making fellowship with God possible. Through Jesus we have fellowship with God and this is the fellowship he wants for his people. John says the joy of our relationships is complete only in this fellowship. Read again Vs 3-4
Not only so, John had also undergone his share of suffering too in the book of acts he had survived heavy persecution, persecuted by the romans and had gone through stress, anger, probably depression and eventually withdrew to a solitary life. So his encouragement here to invite the church to this true fellowship is very strong. He had a different Camera to look at these hardships he had gone through.
Suffering is inevitable- Jesus himself said in this world we will have trouble, but our suffering can work for our good. Spurgeon said “Great hearts can only be made by great troubles, and great faith must have great trials. Selwyn Hughes notes that “It’s only the heart that’s afraid of breaking that never learns to dance”
So how do we make lasting memories?
My first point is that- The right Camera: Seeing Relationships as God sees them. The power to lasting relationships is drawn from the Fellowship with the everlasting God. We too must come to the revelation that Jesus is LIFE. And only through LIFE is Fellowship Possible. The strength of a Christian family or marriage is anchored in that fellowship with God. This is what makes us distinct. This is what makes our Marriages and families Sacred. This is the right Camera to seeing relationships as God sees them.
This is very foundational in understanding the nature of Christian Relationships. Our relationships are more than plain human association, our relationships are anchored in the conviction of the presence of God’s LIFE in our lives. In other words our relationships should reflect the nature of the fellowship we have through God’s LIFE. In other words it is God who breathes LIFE into our relationships because Human breath runs out and does not last.
This relationship with God is never more necessary than in suffering. The Inward dwelling of God’s LIFE, this fellowship is the secret to Stability. Is the secret to Lasting moments in our relationships?
The power to stable families is not out there, it’s in here. God’s LIFE in you. Unfortunately we have more pictures of things that happened to us and not things that happened in us? Do you recall the date you gave your life to the Lord, what of pictures when you were baptized, or the pictures of what you meant in your heart when you said I DO?
So light’s camera action- What picture comes to mind when you think of your fellowship as a family? Have you come to the realization of Jesus as the LIFE of your relationships? Which of these kinds of sufferings seem to threaten your relationships? Which are those things you do together that refresh that fellowship? It is true that a family that prays together stays together, when was the last time you asked each other – how is your walk with the Lord? Or are we making assumptions. Biblically faith has always been a household issue, People came to faith as households not merely as individuals and particularly men were key leaders in this.
But we may think Stability will come if we just know why something has happened. We constantly ask God why? Why they are gone, why I he allowed me to end up with this kind of a person, why I am the only one who seems not to be getting it, why he chose that I am the one to carry Cancer, this condition e.t.c in my family?
Too often God is silent, because His stability relies on the answer to the question He wishes we would ask, not Why, but How? How can we get through this to stability? This is the question we need to resolve as families? God does not just say Trust me- He says Invite me to participate with you in this, invite me to fellowship with you in this issue? Suffering raises the question Why, Stability answers the question how.
Unfortunately trying to solve relationship problems without addressing this issue is in many ways futile. For we miss the compass of it all. It’s like building a house but never building a home.
Too often the heart of the matter to many relationship issues and conflicts lies in our discipleship, our walk our own fellowship with God. It is a clear character that before they were unfaithful to you, they were unfaithful to the Lord. Before they can forgive you, they need God’s forgiveness, before they accept you, they need God’s grace and before you love them, you need God’s love. We cannot talk of complete restoration and healing if we fall short of getting ourselves first back in fellowship with the father.
My second point is this: COME to the LIGHT. The result of this fellowship is living in the Light. Vs 5-7.
Our human efforts to create the right kind of light in our relationships too often falls short. We can create the night lights, the camp fire, neon disco lights, the candle lit dinners, the fun light moments, we can create the fireworks in our relationships, this is how we start off into relationships- there was a bit of light, fun and laughter, flattery or plain feeling nice…….. but it doesn’t last long. The candle melts away, the fireworks burn out, the bulbs burn off, the firewood ashed out, the moments don’t last.
This light we create is too often deceptive, we see only what they want us to see, just enough to get you in. You thought you saw everything in that candle lit dinner? You thought you saw a future, you were filled with hope and raised expectations …only to discover you were using the night lights.
John begins by stating that God is Light. Man can create the night life, but Only God is the Light of the world. God’s Light has no darkness, it reveals everything as it is, it hides nothing. We cannot claim to have fellowship with Him yet live in the dark or the night life especially in the context of our relationships.
Relationships that begin in the night life, often do not last long. Only until we come under God’s Light. The Creator of the sun, moon and stars these have never gone off. He is the LIGHT of the World.
Like Paul on His way to Damascus when God’s Light shines into our relationships, Not only does it reveal our darkness, everything about us is laid bare, but it also reveals the real possibilities of the future.bMay be this is too metaphorical, let me make it easier?
As believers, we have nothing to hide, we endeavor to walk in an open and accountable relationship. We have nothing to fear, our past is exposed, but so is His Grace. We are not ashamed of our past life, because we have received God’s forgiveness. The result is a life of accountability and freedom.
Many people suffer in secret because of the night lights. We become people with secrets, insecurities and deny the others of our fellowship, because we are ashamed or embarrassed or afraid of what they will find out about us. We have a side life that no one, or even those close to us should not know. We hide in our past and lock out the possibilities of our future in this new LIGHT.
Our fellowship in families, in marriage and believers are anchored in the truth that we are purified from all our sins.
When we invite openness, accountability and vulnerability especially in the fellowship of believers, we are investing in stability. That’s what our fellowships should be about- MAST, WASH, and YOUNG ADULTS- Places where we come to be in the LIGHT of the world. That’s what Ndoa is about
Are you in the right light- How can you come to the light? What steps can you take- confess – SO again CAMERA, LIGHTS, ACTION.
But lastly- Actions of Grace and Obedience are the ingredients to lasting relationships. When suffering comes, sometimes in our relationships, we often are too quick to take drastic actions to escape. There is very little effort or chance that we give? And sometimes we feel justified….I heard of someone who walked out on the wife, because he could not handle the sickness, or may be that condition seems like it’s permanent, or when we are just wounded by their actions- we quickly want to bolt out.
Actions of Grace are prompted by knowing that all of us are weak, all of us are sinners and all of us are recipients of Grace. If we claim we do not have sin, then we deceive ourselves. There is no place for pride.
How are you capturing Lasting moments? What Camera are you using, are you living in the light are you taking actions of Grace