We are down to our last few NT letters – all written by the apostle John, who often described himself as the disciple Jesus loved. He felt the love of Jesus so strongly and it comes out in his writings. John is believed to have been the only one of Jesus’ disciples still alive at this point and the only one to die of old age or natural causes.
The Bible does not tell us how each disciple died but information has been pieced together from other historical documents and legends. Like Paul, Peter was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero – Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified (upside down by his request). Andrew took the gospel to what is now the Soviet Union, Turkey, Asia Minor and Greece, where he was crucified. Thomas took the gospel to Syria and India, where the spears of four soldiers took his life. Philip took the gospel to North Africa and Asia Minor, where he was cruelly put to death by a Roman proconsul who was angry that Philip had converted his wife to Christianity.
Some say Matthew was not martyred while others say he was stabbed in Ethiopia. There are varying accounts of how Bartholomew died, all stories of his martyrdom for the gospel. James is believed to have been stoned and clubbed to death, while Simon the Zealot was killed when he refused to worship the sun god. Matthias, the disciple who replaced Judas, was burned to death. [http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/whatever-happened-to-the-twelve-apostles-11629558.html]
All of these men gave their lives for the sake of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were just common men who knew what it was to be loved by Jesus and were passionate about spreading Jesus’ message of salvation.
This morning I read through John’s first letter. His message, like the messages of Paul and Peter, speaks strongly of salvation and holiness.
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. – 1 John 1:5-10
John is saying that God is holy – He is light and there is no darkness in Him at all. God does not sin and cannot sin because He is the definition of holy. So, we cannot say that we have fellowship with God if we willfully keep sinning because sin separates us from God. Sin in our lives is spiritual darkness and God is light.
We are all sinners. But, here’s the good news – the message the disciples were willing to die in order to spread. We do not have to continue living in sin. We have a choice. God not only forgives us of our sins, He also cleanses us from all wickedness. He does a work in our lives and in our hearts, making us into a new creation. We are no longer slaves to sin but have been given the Spirit. Instead of giving into our sinful urgings, we can give into the urgings of the Spirit. It is then that we are able to experience fellowship with God – living in the light, as God is in the light.
We have all sinned and, because we are human, we are imperfect. But, when we live by the Spirit, the Spirit speaks to us when attitudes are creeping in or when our words are not pleasing to God. We have a choice in that moment to listen to the Spirit and yield to the urgings not to continue with that attitude, or to stop speaking or apologize for what has already been said. Or we can ignore the Spirit and give into our sinful urgings. That is when we sin and that is when we choose spiritual darkness that separates us from God. God is holy and He is calling us to be holy, just as He is equipping us with His Spirit in order to live a holy life.
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. – 1 John 2:1-6
To live as Jesus did – that’s a tall order. That is what the disciples did. They lived as Jesus lived and they died as Jesus died, willingly giving their lives for the sake of the advancement of God’s Kingdom. And we are all called to live for God in obedience – whatever He asks us to do. I’m so thankful that I am not given this assignment to complete on my own.
Thank you, Jesus, for being my advocate – my truly righteous sacrifice. I love you, Jesus. My desire today is that my love for You will show in my obedience to the Spirit. My desire is to live IN You instead of living FOR me. Amen.