Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Confident Confession...

1 John 4:14-16 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 
In Christ the love of God and our faith in Christ intersect.  When we come to know and believe that God truly loves us, as demonstrated by Christ dying for us, then we come to know Him in this way that makes us calm and confident.  So confident in fact, that we are willing to love the way He does - in sacrificial service, knowing that if we "stick our heads out", making ourselves vulnerable, we are not doing anything He has not already done.  We are close enough to Him that we trust Him, knowing how much He loves us.  Our faith and love feed one another as we go further and further in our walk with Him.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sometimes we wonder...

1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 
Sometimes, when we step back and look at something we do or say, we doubt where we stand in our relationship with Christ.  "How could I be so stupid?!? So thoughtless? So unloving? So foolish?  That is to be expected.  We are under attack by the Deceiver, the master of fear and doubt.  But we also have One who is greater - the Spirit of Truth, Who will bring us back on track, both in how we live and how we feel about ourselves.  He is within us to remind us of who we are - children of God who are still growing up.  We need to stand in wonder of what He can do in and through us, despite our imperfections.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

God's Game Plan...

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 
John has been making the case for "loving one another" in the Body of Christ as one of the main signs that we are His followers.  This plea is based upon the character of God and the example He has given in Christ's sacrifice for us.  The third and final reason is this: God is not visible; His love was made manifest (visible) when Christ came down, but now He has returned to the Father. How can we see His love now?  Us.  We are now to be God's advertisement for a redeeming love, as those who speak for Him, and those who share His love in His family.  That's how the world will see.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Simple Sense

1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 
Here John summarizes his point: If God has loved us so much that He sent His Son to give Himself in our place when we did not deserve it, then the natural response, prompted and powered by His Holy Spirit, is for us to mimic such sacrificial love toward one another.  Call it "pay it forward", loving back, being grateful - a hundred more things... it only makes sense that we would respond to God's love by loving others in the family He has brought us into.  So simple, yet such a seeming struggle for us to put it into practice.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Who loved first?

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 
John makes it clear that God has not just loved us in response to our love or faith to Him. He loved first and foremost.  Our love is responsive to Him.  But how can we practically love Him back? In the context of this letter, it is wanting to please Him by our obedience.  And what is the most tangible way we can obey Him?  Keep His commandment to love one another, by reflecting and repeating His sacrificial kind of love.  This is the only reasonable response we can have to such a great love.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Definition Demonstrated...

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 
Show and Tell is always the best and fastest teacher.  Christ came not just to talk, but to show the Love of God for us, to make the way for real life.  He is the way to life, so it would make sense that we should follow Him in this life and into the next.  His way is characterized by love.  As we follow Him we see Him constantly stopping, investing His life in others, at His own expense.  It's really not a hard concept; we just tend to go off on selfish side streets.  We take our eyes off of Jesus as He makes His way down the crowded "straight and narrow" street of love, and find ourselves going the wrong way.  Let's follow more attentively today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

More than an acquaintance...

1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 
God's love is infectious.  If we are really related to Him, by new birth and by a committed relationship, the effects of that relationship will be unmistakeable in our lives. One of the most pronounced effects will be a Christ-like sacrificial love, especially for our fellow family members. Since His love is overwhelming, if we are really His, and really close to Him, true love will overtake us and characterize us.  Can we be so accused of knowing Him?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reasons to Love one Another #1...

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 
John has been building a case for the characteristics of true believers.  One of the three main characteristics is love for fellow believers.  He comes back to this them, giving three reasons we should do so.  First and foremost, those who are born of God, His children, should  resemble Him, should reflect His characteristics.  It is a trait we inherit from Him.  It reveals our relationship.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Helping us Hear... and listen too

1 John 4:6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 
With all of the distracting and contradicting voices in this world, we need the Holy Spirit to help us listen, to even hear, what God is saying.  If we are in Christ, we have Him.  We can tell who to listen to and who not to, if we want to.  John began this paragraph saying "Believe not every spirit...".  We have that ability and possibility if we are willing to listen to the True One. It doesn't matter who everyone else is listening to; we must train ourselves to listen to God's Word and His Holy Spirit, and those who speak for Him.  Then we can have confidence we are listening to and living by the Truth.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Speaking Worldese...

1 John 4:5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 
Listen, really listen to what is being said.  In an age of mega-information, we need to have a finer filter than ever to discern truth.  Everyone around us is speaking "worldese"... the language of this world. Their words make no sense, because they are blinded to the truth.  At times we can feel left out, stupid, doubting ourselves, wondering if maybe we need to be more like them.  But this world is not our home; we do not speak the same language if we are in Christ.  And the language of Christ does not make sense to those in darkness. We indeed are involved in cross-cultural evangelism even in our own country.  May we be aware enough of what they are saying to discern the error, and grounded enough in the truth to respond lovingly with it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Remembering who we are...

1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 
This is more than just a pep talk to pump us up as believers, going around singing a catchy little chorus about having the Holy Spirit within.  It is a serious, solemn reminder that we have the Holy Spirit within us "to guide us into all truth". He is greater, in context, than Satan in that He is the Spirit of Truth who can protect us from the lies and deception of the Evil One, and his false prophets, IF we are willing to listen to Him and not the voices of this world.  So whereas it is a precious promise, it is even more a stark reminder that we have WHO we need to not be led astray, to overcome the lies the enemy throws our way.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Clear on Christ

1 John 4:2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
What we believe and how we respond to Christ makes all the difference.  It will affect how we see life, ourselves, and others.  Unless we get that right, a life of holiness, sacrificial love and hopeful faith make no sense, just like it makes no sense to many in the world around us.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lots of Ways to be Led Astray...

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 
John has been talking about very important issues throughout this letter: true faith, Christ-like love, righteous living.   He now has a note of loving seriousness as he transitions to this paragraph: "I care about you and do not want to see you fall for every or any spectacular idea that comes along. I want you to be well-grounded in the Word of God, and well-connected to the Spirit of God so that you can see and stay away from false teachings that pull you away from God."  Behind every "message" out there is a spirit - be it God's Spirit or the Opposing Spirit.  Know the source and respond accordingly.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Commandment

1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 
Jesus disciples had asked Him what the most important commandment was, and He gave them a concise two-part answer.  Here John makes it even simpler, yet with the same basic ingredients: God wants out faith in Him and His Plan, which will naturally transfer over to us loving His Family the same way He has.  It is both knowing and doing.  One without the other is incomplete.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Confident Living...

1 John 3:21-22 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 
Confidence is a big thing in John's letter, and in the Christian life.  With so many voices contradicting the core values of our faith, we can begin to wonder if our convictions are well-placed.  John by no means wants us to have a false confidence or merely a self-confidence.  He wants us to have confidence that rests solely on Christ and what He has done for us.  If our faith is real, and if we seek to live by His commandments, especially His great commandment, we can come to Him confidently in prayer, and in our decisions, and be at peace within, living lives that please Him.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

God Knows...

1 John 3:19-20 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 
The self-condemning heart.  Sometimes we hear someone make the statement: "God knows my heart" to explain some questionable behavior.  But in context here, John has been talking about the showing of love by one believer toward the next.  We can have confidence instead of condemnation when two things are true: we truly believe and trust in Christ, and we demonstrate our faith by loving and serving others in the Body of Christ.  Yes, God dow know our hearts, and our actions too.  At times we may question if we are doing enough to show that love, and that is good, but we are not to wallow in self-doubt and give up; we are to find in Christ the peace that comes from knowing Him and serving Him, and realizing it will never be enough for what He has done for us. He has taken care of it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A John 3:16 kind of love...

1 John 3:16-18 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 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? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 
It has often been pointed out that I John 3:16, like John 3:16, points us to the love of God in Christ.  In the Gospel of John, It is God's love demonstrated in His doing something as He looked upon us in our need for a Savior.  Here, it is God's directive about how we are to show the same kind of love to fellow believers we see in need.  We are not just to give to those needs in a practical way; we are to have the same heart of compassion toward them, and give them what Christ gave us - His time and work.  We are to sacrifice a part of us for one another.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Consider the source...

1 John 3:13-15 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 
It amazes me sometimes how shocked we are as Christians that we are hated so much by the world.  Christ warned us we would be hated by the world.  The world loves darkness and sin, and we do not - at least others' sin.  What we do need to sit up and take notice of is when hatred exists in the body.  That does not fit - allowing darkness and death to exist where there should be eternal life and light.  We know that, so let us act accordingly.  Let us hate hatred with a passion.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Love, distinguished...

1 John 3:11-12 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. 
By this point, John has hinted a few times about the importance of love in the believer's life as a sign that new birth has taken place.  But love can be an overused term.  We should love one another, but what does that look like?  John takes us all the way back to the first family to show us what church family love should NOT look like.  Cain tried to blame his sin on his brother. His actions showed the evil contempt he had in his heart.  Rarely do we see our contempt reach such levels, but it can be nonetheless just as real.  Other believers' righteousness can make us look bad, feel guilty, and have us do things far less than godly.  True love joins us together to pursue righteousness as a family, pulling for one another, building each other up, and not making excuses for our selfish behavior.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Examining for Evidence

1 John 3:9-10 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 
One of the most memorable experiences of my life has been to have an African-American Pastor sing a song of blessing over me called "Evidence".  God wants us to live lives that bear evidence to the fact that we are His seed, His children, His servants.  If our lives prove otherwise, through disobedience or a lack of love towards fellow believers, then evidence is lacking, and we are to not be given assurance, and we are not to be listened to. We should not try to fool ourselves or others.  May we leave behind today lots of evidence that we are His.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Whose Child are You acting like?

1 John 3:7-8 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 
Actions matter.  One of the points John has been making in his letter is that how we live should be a reflection of what we believe - that the follower of Christ should take sin, and weeding it out, seriously.  Some were saying it was no big deal.  But John remembers what Christ Himself had said to the Pharisees, who only took the sins of others seriously: "You are of your father, the Devil."  We act like the one we are born of: those born in sin sin; those born again from God live differently. besides that, if we follow Christ, why do we think He came?  If He came to destroy the works of the devil, he tries to get us to sin; why would we claim to follow Christ, but give the devil what he wants?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Consistent with Christ

1 John 3:4-6 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 
John is warning us against they idea that a believer can keep on sinning the old sins over and over, and think it really doesn't matter, because when Christ comes, He will take care of our sinful nature, and we'll have to just wait.  That ignores Christ's first coming. When He came the first time, He came to take away sins, and He lived sinlessly.  If we are going to follow Him, we should not take lightly the reason He came, nor should we ignore the example He set.  Blatantly breaking God's law is not consistent with Christ coming to take sin away or to live victorious over it. To do so is to miss the point entirely.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

LIving in Anticipation

1 John 3:2-3 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 
John presents us with a balanced perspective between living for the moment and "being so heavenly minded we are no earthly good."  Understood properly, the thought of Christ's return will positively affect how we live here and now; we will seek to be pure as He is pure, holy as He is holy, because we know one day we will be that way.  Rather than "putting off till tomorrow" we are practicing for, living for tomorrow.  In other words, sin is a big deal to us - not others' sin, but our own.  If we truly know Christ, though imperfectly now, then we will want to be as much like Him as we can, living in anticipation when we will.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 
Look!  That is why people in the world around us just don't get it.  They don't know what it is like to be loved by God!  They don't know Him.  If they knew Him they would realize how much He loves them, and us.  Many people in the world just don't get Christians simply because they have not come into a relationship with the Heavenly Father.  Christians need to understand that, and not in an arrogant way.  We need to bask in the Father's love, but not keep it to ourselves.  They need to see it in us and through us, and we need to try to introduce them to Him.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Connecting the Future to Now...

1 John 2:28-29 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
Abiding - living daily in fellowship with God and with His Son, Jesus Christ.  That is the life we are to be living now.  When we do, we will have no fear of Christ's return; we will more than "hope" that we will spend eternity with Him and the Father.  We live righteously, in right relationship with God, His Word, and His will, because we know that Christ is our righteousness - that the only way we will be able to stand before God is not how righteous or perfect we are, but how righteous He is.  We do not enter eternity with God because we have perfectly practiced (lived) righteously, but we practice (live out) right living because we believe that Christ and Christ alone is righteous, and He is our way to a relationship with, and being able to stand before, Holy God.  So how we live in this life does matter - it is a response to and reflection of what we believe about Christ.