An often forgotten message of the gospel is that it empowers us to live free from the burdens of sin. You may be thinking: “but you don’t know what I’ve done, the mistakes I’ve made.” Let me tell you this, God used a murderer, a man named Saul whose name was changed to Paul, to lead the missions efforts of the early church. Do you think God can use you? Paul firmly believed, that despite even his ongoing struggles, that God would prevail. So when you sin, confess and repent. And aim to live a life free from sin.
You’re not alone in this: you can seek accountability, someone to regularly ask you how things are going, that you can be real and honest with. You can grow as a Christian in community. There is no shame, for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
But it is in the denial of sin that we show that we are Jesus’ followers. First John 2:3–6 (NIV) reads:
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
So John tells us to live like Jesus did, that means resisting the pull of evil on our lives. On this point, the author of Hebrews says:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one [Jesus] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus was tempted, like us, as a human and prevailed. So know that he is there to listen, understanding of our weaknesses. He wants a better life for you but he is also gracious and loving.
But what are these commands that we should aim to keep? Usually we think of keeping commands as abstaining from something, what we don’t do. But John tells us that Jesus’ command is also about what we should do. In 1 John 2:7–11 (NIV), he says:
“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”
John tells us that his new command is actually old. It is old in the sense that it has been around since Moses first wrote the Law. It is new in the sense that it is now understood in light of Jesus, as an integral part of what it means to follow God. This commandment is to love your “brother and sister;” this is how one “lives in the light.” This is also new in the sense that it is now understood as loving to the point that we are willing to lay down our lives for another person, as Jesus laid down his life for us. On this, Jesus says:
“A new command I give you:
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another … Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 13:34–35; 15:13).
This is the fourth truth: Light is in the world, fighting the darkness, through the self-sacrificial actions of Jesus’ followers.
This is not the way people in our world live. We live in a every person for him or herself sort of world. At most, it’s every family for themselves.
But John calls us to look at the “whole world” as that which Jesus wishes to redeem (1 John 2:2). And we are to be advocates of this sort of self-sacrificial love. This is how darkness and hate loses, with light and love. This is the trajectory of the true story of the whole world that God is telling.
Because this is such a great contrast, John says in 1 John 2:15–17 (NIV):
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
John confirms that we should resist the desires “of the flesh:” pride, sex out of context of marriage, and many other things that could be added to this list. So discipline, as a Christian, is to be desired. This doesn’t mean that human nature is bad, but instead John is juxtaposing the way things are commonly done in the world with God’s ways. He is saying there is a truth to the light and darkness dualism. There is a real war here between what the Holy Spirit desires for our lives and the human realm, culture, pulling us in a different direction.
John reminds us that this is not what is eternal, but instead God and those who enter into relationship with Jesus will last forever. The battle is temporary.
And this is the fifth truth that is often forgotten in our dualistic, two powers metaphor: That there are not two powers in heaven, but one supreme power! That power is God! Satan and Jesus are not equals. Instead, Christ is victor and this is where we find eternal victory.
It is in light of this that John says in his poem in 1 John 2:12–14 (NIV):
“I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.”
We have overcome the evil one, because there are not two powers. Hate and love may be at war today, but the love of Christ is victor! This is because there is only one power in heaven and that is God. Live love. Fight the power of hate with it. It is this way that we keep darkness at bay.
It is the common thread through every epic story, through each narrative: There are two powers and they are at war. There is good and evil, love and hate, darkness and light.
Think of Star Wars: the dark side and the light side. Think of Lord of the Rings: Sauron versus the Fellowship of the Ring. The same theme is in ancient literature throughout the ancient Near East and Jewish world, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls’ community who envisioned themselves as the “sons of light” who would one day fight Rome, whom they viewed as the darkness. But in this dualism, where everything is polarized, there are a few truths missing.
To see what I mean, let’s venture into 1 John, which uses similar light and dark language, but in a different way.
In 1 John 1:1–4, John tells us that God has come in flesh as Jesus. John says that he is an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry; this makes the letter we’re reading deeply personal.
John then uses darkness and light language, saying that he has heard from Jesus that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Thus anyone who claims to know Jesus must walk in this light, confessing his or her shortcomings. Living in the truth that we are sinful and flawed, and completely dependent on Christ, is key to our relationship with God and with other people (1 John 1:6-10). There is wrong in all of us.
This is the first truth that should confront the dualistic, two powers myth that is so common in culture: light and darkness are not polarized in us humans, but instead we each have both good and evil in us. We are incapable on our own of living in the light without Jesus.
This is where 1 John 2:1-2 (NIV) comes in [the beginning of our focus passage for today]:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
This is the second truth: it is Jesus’ “atoning sacrifice for our sins” that makes us right before God. And the invitation to enter into relationship with God, because of what Jesus has done, is available to everyone, to “the whole world.”
But this isn’t a grace to be taken for granted; it is God’s wish that we “will not sin.”
This is the third truth that should confront the common dualistic, two powers myth: God has come into the world to bring light, in Jesus, and that light can change our very lives. It frees us from sin. God wants you to be free from sin.
This is the end of part 1. Part 2 will be published tomorrow, so tune in for the rest.
You might be in denial, holding on to the last bits of summer sunshine, but fall is quickly approaching, and with it, the craziness of a new season. Fall is full of great things—from pumpkin patches to corn mazes to holidays—but it’s important to slow down and mindfully approach the season. Here are a few things you can do to live like Jesus this fall.
As the weather gets cooler and leaves start to fall, everyone with a yard is going to have some extra work to do. Fall yard work can take a lot of time and energy, and not everyone has the ability to get their yard ready for winter. Let’s step in and help out our neighbors. Doing so is kind, creates an opportunity for fellowship, and reminds us to take a deep breath and look outside of ourselves.
Many people don’t have proper clothing and food to keep them warm this winter, and if you have the time and know-how, maybe think about starting a drive to donate these necessary items to people who need them. Ask a local shelter what their biggest needs are and see how you can help. Taking care of the people in our cities is what Jesus did and what he asked us to do.
As the fall comes in, life tends to get busy, and it’s easy to get swept up in everything new thrown at us. At this time, it’s especially important to stay focused on the things that matter, and this might mean taking a break from some of the things that don’t matter so much. Even Jesus rested and took breaks, taking time to refocus on God. We honor him when we do the same.
With that autumn busyness, it’s easy to put our Bible reading on the backburner. Joining a Bible study is a great way to be held accountable to our commitment to the word of God and to being in fellowship with other believers.
God is constantly moving in our lives, and it’s important to be aware of these things. This fall, keep a prayer journal of praises and petitions and bring the focus back to the Lord. We might find ourselves more aware of how he is working in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Living like Jesus is how we can share the gospel everywhere we go. This fall, we encourage you to live out your faith courageously.
Being able to read and write is a privilege many of us don’t understand. Literacy creates opportunities, spreads information, and brings people together. This is true, yet an estimated 781 million adults around the world don’t have the resources or ability to read, and we need to talk about that.
Having access to literature and literacy training should be a basic right for all people. As we work toward equality, we should remember that every person on earth deserves the chance to read and write because of the hope that comes with literacy.
This isn’t a new notion or a new struggle.
These ideas—of opportunity, information, and fellowship—were at the heart of the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago. Martin Luther and other reformers believed that everyone deserved the chance to hear and understand the gospel.
Salvation is not only for those with the highest education or for those who live in the most privileged communities. Salvation is an offer for everyone, and fighting for literacy means continuing the fight of the Reformation—the fight to make the gospel accessible because we know that “God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11 ESV).
It is possible to hear, understand, and surrender to the gospel without being able to read, but having the ability to study the world of your own volition is so important. Faith rests on the ability to hear what God is saying and meditate on his truth. Paul reminds us of this and says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 ESV).
On International Literacy Day, it is important for us to remember the value of literacy, both to personal and to spiritual development. Literacy brings people to knowledge of the gospel, but it also provides opportunities for people to fight against poverty. Communication is at the core of many jobs, and knowing how to read and write properly is important. Furthermore, literacy opens up a world of art that enhances life on earth.
Living for Jesus means working to eradicate poverty. Living for Jesus means spreading the gospel. Living for Jesus means advocating for equality in all ways, including the right to literacy. We do these things because of God’s grace working in us, because we love like he loves.
“But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17 ESV)
You can be an advocate in your own way—by donating to a literacy organization, offering your time to after school programs that teach reading and writing, or even starting your own project.
Here at Jesus’ Economy, we are funding church planting in Bihar, India. Each church plant we fund supports a local Bihar pastor in building and nurturing several home churches around his community. These pastors are hosting Bible studies, giving literacy training, and spreading the gospel throughout their villages. Thousands of people in Bihar are hearing the gospel and are learning to read it for the first time.
There are so many ways to get involved, but no matter what you do, remember that literacy is so much bigger than reading and writing. It’s an issue of equality, it’s an issue of access to the gospel, and it’s an issue that matters to God.
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17 ESV).
Literacy can change the world and give people hope, and that’s what we’re about here.
Jesus’ Economy is dedicated to ending poverty, and through our work in Bihar, India and our partnerships with fair trade artisans, we are making progress. But we need your help. Please pray with us as we continue to work.
Sometimes prayer can feel like a cop-out that takes away the need for action, but this simply isn’t true. Action is necessary, and there are many ways we can physically fight poverty, but let’s not negate prayer in the process of doing God’s will.
Poverty is not God’s plan for the people he created, and that means we should do all we can to end it. While donations and purchases at the Fair Trade Shop all work toward fighting poverty around the world, the power of prayer can too. So pray with us. Pray with us if you don’t have the ability to donate or buy. Pray with us, also, if you do have the ability to donate or buy, because your prayers are valued, too.
Pray that God will use us in Bihar, India. Pray that the artisans we partner with will be blessed. Pray for hope and for poverty to end.
We believe that through prayer, anything can happen. God has provided a grand vision for Jesus’ Economy and we need to join in prayer to make it happen. Partner with us in prayer; let's watch God work together.
Jesus’ Economy was founded in 2012 when John and Kalene Barry decided to do something about worldwide poverty. They adopted an idea for holistic ministry — a ministry that serves people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs.
At Jesus’ Economy, we believe that God wants to create jobs, plant churches, and meet the basic needs of the impoverished — all at the same time, one community at a time. We believe that there are answers to the world’s problems in the combination of microloans, fair trade shopping, church planting, and meeting basic needs. We believe that all these things should work together holistically — as one vision and plan for renewing communities. And surprisingly, few people are doing this — holistic ministry is rare.
As of 2015, Jesus’ Economy is the only non-profit dedicated to holistic work on a global scale. Furthermore, we are the only organization that also combines it with fair trade shopping. And 100% of your giving to developing world projects is spent in the developing world — every time, guaranteed. For example, if you give $100 to providing clean water, your full $100 goes to the developing world and will be used only for drilling water. We raise our U.S. costs separately from developing world projects.
The first community Jesus’ Economy decided to help was Bihar, India. As of today, we have drilled seven wells, and this allows women to work and children to go to school. We have funded and sent out four church planters who have planted more than 30 churches, and we are raising funds to give women business training so that they can support themselves and their families for years to come. After the training, the women will be eligible for a microloan from Jesus’ Economy to purchase supplies for their expanding business. Jesus' Economy also changes the economic paradigm by becoming the guaranteed buyer of the products the women are creating. Jesus' Economy will sell these products in our fair trade shop.
Our efforts have changed the lives of dozens of artisans who now have a stable source of income and can send their children to school, buy food, improve their living conditions, and lift themselves out of poverty.
People in Bihar are beginning to trust in Jesus. They’re being baptized and meeting in homes to study the Bible, and while they’re growing spiritually, they’re also being cared for physically. Hundreds of people in Bihar are learning to read, saving time and energy through access to safe water, and training to build their own businesses. These people are changing the future for themselves, their families, and their entire communities.
Jesus’ Economy is dedicated to ending poverty, and everything we do — from our fair trade shop to our Renew Bihar project — is working toward creating hope for people around the world. Everything we do is for the glory of Jesus. We are fighting for what he fights for, and that is hope.
It’s been a hot summer, and after a long day, nothing can beat the feeling of drinking a cold glass of water. And when we get that water straight from our kitchen sinks, we often don’t think about how privileged we are. Water is a very basic necessity, yet many people around the world don’t have access to safe water, and they face limitations because of this.
August is National Water Quality Month, and it is the perfect time to make some changes to how you think about water.
More than 10 percent of the world’s population can’t drink water from their pipes, and this issue affects more than just health and sanitation. When clean water is unavailable, family dynamics are impacted. Since women are usually the ones in charge of collecting water, they have to spend extra time each day walking to a drinkable water source, which can sometimes be miles away. This means the women can’t work for pay, families can’t afford to send their children to school, and a cycle of poverty continues for generations.
This is a problem in many countries, states, and villages around the world. One of these states is Bihar, India.
In Bihar, India, where there is a women empowerment measure of .379, ranking among the top ten worst in the world, women and children spend hours daily walking miles to gather just enough water to live off of.
But Jesus’ Economy is working to change that. Jesus’ Economy has funded the drilling of four water wells in Bihar, providing 7,100 people with access to clean, safe water. Every dollar donated to this program funds the building, upkeep, and safety of the wells.
However, it doesn’t end with clean water. Following the funding of the wells, Jesus’ Economy is also working to empower women through literacy programs, business training, offering microloans, and planting churches.
Lives are changed for the better when clean water becomes available around the world.
This month consider becoming part of the movement to provide the basic necessity of clean water to people all over the world, which will also help families lift themselves out of poverty. Clean water can change the world.
Today is the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, a day dedicated to renewing the fight against human trafficking. Research estimates that about 25 million people are currently enslaved for either labor or sexual exploitation.
While many factors influence human trafficking, and the fight to end it requires difficult, impassioned work, one of the biggest things we can do to work against and prevent human trafficking is to fight against poverty. Most of the people who are trafficked come from impoverished communities, and this makes trafficking harder to stop because of a lack of resources, attention, and power. People with less financial stability are easier to exploit, and the trafficking industry has taken this into account.
Most of us are not human rights lawyers, and we aren’t in politics or law enforcement. Ending human trafficking isn’t something we can directly instigate. But fighting poverty, for most of us, is easy and we should be doing all we can to help lift our brothers and sisters around the world into more hopeful circumstances.
We can combat poverty in a lot of small ways as we go about our day, but one of the simplest things we can do is to shop responsibly through organizations we trust. We all have things we need to live, and we all have things we want, and every one of these items can be bought ethically if we take the time to look.
If you’re looking for an organization that promotes fair trade, take a look at our Fair Trade Shop. Jesus’ Economy is fighting poverty around the world through our partnerships with many fair trade artisan groups, through our project to Renew Bihar, India, and you can join us to make a change.
Fair trade is amazing and here are just a few reasons why:
But the most important thing is that fair trade improves lives around the world.
When artisans are able to make and sell their products for a fair wage, they have a better chance of providing for themselves and their futures. Fair trade artisans are able to lift themselves out of poverty, which lowers their risk of being involved in trafficking. They are empowered to resist a cycle of fear and begin a cycle of hope.
Human trafficking is a complex evil, and buying fair trade will not eliminate it. But we can do something to fight against it, and if we can do something, we should. We should be compassionate and use our resources and privileges to promote justice.
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause” (Isaiah 1:16-17, ESV).
Our God is a God of justice, and human trafficking is severely unjust. As believers searching out God’s will, let us seek justice for those oppressed by human trafficking in any way we can.
Today is International Widows’ Day, established by the UN as a day dedicated to taking action against the injustices committed against widows worldwide. But it’s not just a day to have a meal with the widows you know or to make a donation to a cause you support. It’s a day to commit to taking care of widows and to changing the opportunities they have.
In many countries, widows are not treated fairly or kindly because of their status. While this is not the case for most widows in the United States, we should still be supporting the widows in our lives, and we can strive to make things better for widows who are mistreated, as we know God has called us to do.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
You probably know a few widowed women, either personally or from your church. Start there. On International Widows’ Day, make a plan to support these women—not just for one day. Make sure they are being taken care of and do what you can to assist them spiritually, emotionally, and physically. You could do a Bible study together, volunteer together, or even provide meals for them. A lot of widows also need help with projects around their home because they might not have the time, money, skills, or resources to do it on their own. Just having an extra set of hands can be very helpful, so ask what is needed and do what you can.
There are also several ways you can get involved with programs to support widows worldwide. Here are a few great organizations:
“We are dedicated to providing support to grief-stricken young families in their time of deepest need. When a parent dies the financial burden can be huge. The LLF awards monetary grants to meet families’ emotional and financial short-term needs.”
“The Global Fund for Widows is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering widows and female heads of households to overcome poverty through skills-based training, job creation, and micro-finance.”
“Modern Widows Club is committed to being advocates to give widows a voice, enable and empower them to move forward and become vital members of society once again able to thrive.”
“GriefShare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. You don’t have to go through the grieving process alone.”
Jesus’ Economy doesn’t have a program set up directly for widows, but we do have a program to empower women in Bihar, India. Through this program, several women will be trained to maintain their own businesses and therefore be able to provide for their families. The women in this program come from a variety of family backgrounds—some married, some single, and some widowed—but because of their businesses they will have a way to support themselves. If any of these women were to become widowed, they would have the resources they need to feed themselves and their families.
On International Widows’ Day, we should think about how we can support women around the world, whether they’re in our neighborhood or in a developing country. Take this day to be there for your friends who are widows, and think about how you can contribute to the welfare of widows worldwide not just today, but every day.
On the cross, Jesus felt the agony of the entire world, including those who feel voiceless in the developing world. He died for us, all of us, so that freedom from sin and all of its consequences could be accomplished; so that we may live in relationship with God once again. All we must do is choose him back (John 3:16), to cry out to Jesus.
"Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush him; he afflicted [him] (with sickness). If she [Zion/Jerusalem] places his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days and the will of Yahweh in his hand will succeed. From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied. In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make the many righteous and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide to him [a portion] among the many, and with [the] strong ones he shall divide bounty, because he exposed his life to death and was counted with transgressors, and he carried [the] sin of many and will intercede for transgressors" (Isaiah 53:10-12, my translation).
500 years before Jesus, these words were prophesied. And in them is resurrection, for all of us. There is resurrection for the suffering in the developing world, who have placed their hands in my hands asking for prayer for relief from the pain. There is resurrection for the homeless man who I watched cry out "Jesus Christ my Lord," asking for salvation from his addictions. There is resurrection for me, the sinner who is only saved because of Jesus. There is resurrection for all of us.
Here, in the gospel according to the prophet Isaiah, I see a suffering servant dying as a "guilt offering" at the hands of his own people, Zion (or Jerusalem). I see a servant who does things that can only happen in life, after his death has already occurred: He sees offspring, prolongs days, and sees light. In these things he is satisfied, for he has accomplished the will of God.
I see resurrection here for all of us.
Jesus accomplished all the things in this prophesy. He is the suffering servant. In Jesus, I see hope for the entire world, including hope to overcome the pain being experienced by those in poverty in the developing world.
It is in Jesus that all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). In Jesus, one day, all things will be made new (Revelation 21). It is Jesus who can sympathize with our weaknesses and intercede on our behalf. It is Jesus who has overcome all.
Perhaps the author of Hebrews states it best:
"Therefore, since the children share in blood and flesh, he also in like manner shared in these same things, in order that through death he could destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and could set free these who through fear of death were subject to slavery throughout all their lives" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Jesus has come to set us free. And we are given the opportunity to set others free, from spiritual and physical poverty. Let us live that message this day. Let us feel it. Let it be like the joy of Easter Sunday, the resurrection day, when we embrace the spiritual resurrection Jesus offers now and the resurrection of the dead when he one day returns. Let us live the resurrected life now.
(The views on Isaiah 53 in this post are based on my book The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, published by InterVarsity Press, 2010.)
This article was previously published under the title, "Resurrection for All People, from All Pain, in Jesus."