We've just finished a series on 1 John at our Wednesday night Bible study. It has been a roller coaster ride for me. I've always felt a strange mixture of fear and wonder while reading 1 John. He wrote it to give assurance (5:13), but I've often thought that he could have been more comforting if that was his purpose. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a Christian when I read about not continuing in sin and loving my brother. One evening a while back we were studying chapter 4 (9-19 particularly) and it struck me afresh (as it did when I was preparing during the week) that the prior foundation of our love for God and others is God's love for us. The love of God in Christ permeates 1 John. If we miss that, we will despair because of the high standard set in that book. If we get that, "perfect love casts out fear." It was this same week that I found Newtons "Conflicting Feelings" at Hireath. Wow. I tried to read these lyrics to the guys at Bible study, but I was just too choked up. I retreated to the photocopier and just gave them copies (I did manage to read it with quavery voice later).
One observation: When Newton says that sometimes he finds Sunday a day of guilt and grief, remember that he was the preacher. The more I read about him, and by him, the more I appreciate him.
If you are a Christian, you will be able to identify with Newton as well. If you can't identify, prayerfully read 1 John and ask God to soften your heart and open your mind to the reality of your sin and the wonder of His gracious love in Christ. We love because He first loved us.
Strange and mysterious is my life.
What opposites I feel within!
A stable peace, a constant strife;
The rule of grace, the power of sin:
Too often I am captive led,
Yet daily triumph in my Head,
Yet daily triumph in my Head.
I prize the privilege of prayer,
But oh! what backwardness to pray!
Though on the Lord I cast my care,
I feel its burden every day;
I seek His will in all I do,
Yet find my own is working too,
Yet find my own is working too.
I call the promises my own,
And prize them more than mines of gold;
Yet though their sweetness I have known,
They leave me unimpressed and cold
One hour upon the truth I feed,
The next I know not what I read,
The next I know not what I read.
I love the holy day of rest,
When Jesus meets His gathered saints;
Sweet day, of all the week the best!
For its return my spirit pants:
Yet often, through my unbelief,
It proves a day of guilt and grief,
It proves a day of guilt and grief.
While on my Savior I rely,
I know my foes shall lose their aim,
And therefore dare their power defy,
Assured of conquest through His Name,
But soon my confidence is slain,
And all my fears return again,
And all my fears return again.
Thus different powers within me strive,
And grace and sin by turns prevail;
I grieve, rejoice, decline, revive,
And victory hangs in doubtful scale:
But Jesus has His promise passed,
That grace shall overcome at last,
That grace shall overcome at last.
John Newton, 1779