Sunday, July 28, 2019


Testing the Spirits

The last sentence of chapter 3 is a transition sentence to this new subject: “by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit he has given us”. The Spirit, the Holy Spirit, abides in every believer. Not everyone is a believer, so everyone does not have the Holy Spirit. Therefore, there are spirits that are false and ungodly. We must test the spirits to see if they are true or false. Just because a person claims to have the Holy Spirit or to speak in the Spirit does not mean they are telling the truth.

Every believer has the ability to test the spirits by using his\her Bible.
Some, though, have a special spiritual gift of discernment, the ability to “distinguish between spirits”. (1 Corinthians 12:10) We should listen to those who have that gift.

Many false prophets have gone into the world, John says. (1) He may mean they left his churches and went into the world. Many false teachers today begin as teachers in the true church, then leave to teach false doctrine.

The implication is that false prophets are empowered and driven by false spirits. Therefore, John says, we cannot believe every Spirit and must test them to see if they are from God.

A person who confesses Jesus Christ is a person indwelled by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit always points to and exalts Jesus. More specifically, John says one must confess that Jesus came in the flesh. (2) This statement may strike you as unusual because we seem more likely to confront someone who denies the deity of Christ as opposed to his humanity.

This statement tells us those who have left the churches John ministers to have those among them who deny that Jesus came in the flesh. The heresy known as Docetism  in the second century was named from the Greek word, “dokesis” which means “to seem”.

Docetism taught that Jesus only appeared to have a body. Docetists believed all matter was evil. From that proposition, they reasoned that God could not have a physical body. By denying that Jesus had a body, they also denied that he suffered and died on the cross and rose bodily from the dead.

Some Gnostics later picked up the idea  and promoted it. it was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451AD. The Council rejected Docetism and held that Jesus is "perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man”.

Evidently this was already an issue in the early church. We see in 1 Timothy 3:16 a statement that appears to be a confession or creed: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”

When we attempt to discern false teaching, we must be careful. There are many who say they believe in Jesus but do not believe in the Jesus taught in the Bible. The principle expressed in Deuteronomy 13:2-6 serves us well.

In that passage, Moses said “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder the he tells you comes to pass, and he says Let us go after other gods which you have not known and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul.”

We must study to know our Bibles and know the truth about Jesus so can can discern error. Those who teach a Jesus that is contrary to the Bible are antichrists, people who have the spirit of the antichrist. They are “anti” or against the real Jesus.

We need not fear these teachers. Instead, we correct and rebuke because we are from God and, therefore, can overcome them. The one who is in us is greater than the one who is in them and in the world. (4) Jesus said “I have overcome the world”. (John 16:33)The Bible does not teach Dualism.

Dualism is the concept of opposing but equal forces, such as good and evil. A religion called Manicheism, which arose in Persia\Iran, opposed Christianity based on this concept. Although that religion died out, the idea pops up now and again. One could argue, for example, that the “Force” in the Star Wars movies embraces this idea. The light and dark sides are equal and always at war.

The Bible teaches us that God is all powerful and that, while the devil has power, he is subject to God and will ultimately be destroyed. While we do not want to take the devil for granted, we do not need to fear him, as we have the power to resist him. James 4:7 says “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

The world will, however, listen to the false prophets. In this passage, the “world” means the people of the world opposed to God. That is why, when a preacher abandons the gospel and begins to teach something else, his popularity grows. He gets invited to appear on television shows and his books sell many copies.

We, on the other hand, listen to God because we are of and from God. Those who are not from God do not listen to us as we proclaim the truth of the gospel. (8) That is one way we discern the Holy Spirit of truth from the spirit of error, the false spirit.

Many people are led astray because they do not know the Bible. When they hear a new idea, they embrace it. This is especially true if the speaker is winsome. Others are uncomfortable with the truth of the Bible, in contrast to the values of the world, and so modify its meaning to mesh with the world’s values.

We Love because God Loves

Here John returns to his theme of love for fellow believers. While calling his readers “beloved”, or those who are loved, he urges them, and us, to love one another. We should do this because love is from God. Those who truly love each other show they are born of God (saved\converted) and know God. If we do not love, we show that we do not know God, since God is love. (8)

So, what does it mean that God is love? It means that it is an integral part of his character. But we must remember that it is not the only part of his character, his only attribute. God is also holy. “Holy” means, first of all, that God is different than us and anything else in creation. His love, then, is a holy love. It is different than anything we can generate on our own.

But when God regenerates us, he gives us this love. Galatians 5:22 tells us the fruit of the Spirit is love. The one who has been changed by God and given the Holy Spirit now has the ability to love in a Godly way. Conversely, the one who has not been born of God and given the Holy Spirit cannot love in a Godly way.

Knowing God’s love is a holy love also keeps us from seeing God’s love in a secular manner. The concept of love for many people is a much lower concept of love than God’s holy love. God’s love is unselfish and pure. We should love our brothers and sisters in Christ the same way.

God also made his love known to us by his actions, just as John urges us to make our love known by our actions. God manifested his love by sending his only Son into the world to give us eternal life. (9) This is the message of John 3:16. So, love is not defined by our loving God, but his loving us and sending his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (10)

This actually allows us to see two attributes of God. God is just. He must punish sin. God is love, and provided his Son, Jesus, to take that punishment in our place.

Since God loved us this way, we should love one another. (11) God is the source of this love and we should love each other and show we have this love from God. That is how people can know we know God and have his love. We cannot see God, no one has. (12) But everyone can see us love each other as we abide in God and allow him to perfect his love in us. (12)

In addition to having God’s love, we know we abide in God because he has given us his Spirit, the Holy Spirit. (13) We who believe testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior. He is the only Savior available to the world. We believe in God’s love and abide with him. Knowing God’s love and his Spirit gives us confidence for the day of judgment, confident that we are in Christ and have eternal life. We show this by being like him while we are in the world.

Since we abide in God and know his love, we do not fear judgment and punishment. We are not objects of God’s wrath, but of his love. We need not fear death or judgment, for we are his.

John closed this teaching on love by repeating that we cannot say we love God while we do not love our brothers and sisters. God commands us to love each other. (21)

So, find a fellow believer this week and find a way to show love to him or her.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


How We Know Love

We know love because Jesus, in love, laid down his life for us. Jesus said “Greater love has no one that this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”. (John 15:13) We should imitate Jesus in this. Since he laid down his life for us, we should lay down our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. One way we do that is by sharing with brothers and sisters in need. If we see the need, but close our hearts and hands, it is difficult to say God’s love abides in us.

Love is not an abstract concept in the New Testament. It is to be shown, not just by saying “I love you”, not by talk, but by deeds done in truth. Here John is similar to James, saying we show who we are by what we do.

This love, manifested in deeds, has a beneficial effect for ourselves, in addition to others. That is, when we doubt, it gives us reassurance. Our heart may condemn us at times, as we worry about our sins, we may doubt our salvation. But God is greater than our hearts. Thus, we can know we are his child and reassure our hearts. When we keep his commandments and do what pleases him, to believe in Jesus and to love others, we can have confidence before God. He has forgiven us and we are doing the best we can to live for him.

When we keep God’s commandments, we abide in him and in us. His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, abides in us and shows us we belong to Jesus.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Today we will study James 3:13-18 and let God’s Word teach us about Godly wisdom.

James begins his teaching by asking a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is one asked, already knowing the answer, to set up an argument.

Here is an example. You are a teenager and you come home late. Your father gets up and comes charging down the hall. His hair is standing straight up, he’s wearing his 20 year baggy pajamas. His eyes are bulging out because he is mad. You offer him a lame excuse. He says, “do I look stupid?”.
Even as a teen, you know that is a rhetorical question. The wise answer is “no sir”. The foolish answer is “do you mean right now or in general?”.

James’ rhetorical question is “who is wise and understanding among you?” James assumes some in the church believe they are wise. Remember, he is writing a letter to those who have left Jerusalem because of persecution, and are now meeting and worshipping together in other towns.  The probably met in homes. Naturally, some would come forward to be leaders, claiming to be qualified because they are wise. In effect, James is saying “I know some of you think you are wise”. And so James wants to show them what that means in Biblical terms.

He says, in verse 13, if you are wise, you need to show it by your good conduct in the meekness of wisdom. In other words, you cannot go around the church claiming to have spiritual wisdom unless you conduct is godly and your works are done in meekness.

In James’ time, wisdom was an intellectual thing, especially among the Greeks and Romans. It did not affect their conduct in moral terms. That same thinking exists today. In parts of our culture, you are considered wise if you believe whatever is the current thing is. That thing is decided by movements in the culture. You can believe those things and be considered wise regardless of your conduct in other areas.
But the Bible does not see wisdom that way. The Bible defines wisdom as a knowledge of God, and his standards, that reveals itself in Godly living. The Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is written on this premise. Proverbs 9:10, for example, says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
The book of Psalms is anchored in this concept also. The very first Psalm tells us the blessed man or woman delights in the law of the Lord and does not follow the counsel of the wicked or hang out with sinners and scoffers. Wisdom comes from knowing God and is shown by obedience to his law.

James is very much plugged into this way of thinking. He is concerned with action and with behavior. All through his letter he deals with behavior: how we handle trials, that we do the word and not just hear it, that we do not show partiality, that we tame our tongues, and show our faith by our works. Likewise, he is not impressed by one’s claim to be wise; he demands to see the fruit of it. That fruit is, first of all, Godly behavior, or conduct.

All of these works are to be done in a certain way: with meekness. So, first of all, what is meekness?
I define it this way: it is a calm confidence in the Lord. I believe Psalm 37 describes this Godly meekness. Is not weakness or timidity. It is the ability to react to all things knowing God is in control and desiring to glorify him.

This allows you to put aside your desires and ambitions, your sense of entitlement and competition, and deal with people, and especially God’s people, with gentleness, respect, and concern for their welfare, even when those people are not conducting themselves in Godly meekness.

It is clearly expressed in the Bible that God values meekness. Psalm 37:11 says “the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace”. If those words sound familiar to you outside of the Psalm, it is because Jesus alluded to them in the beatitudes. He said “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”. (Matthew 5:5) Those live in obedience to God may rest in knowing he will take care of us and bless us.
The greatest leader in the Old Testament was Moses. He contested for the Lord and the Israelites, with the most powerful man on earth, Pharaoh, and prevailed. In the power of the Lord, he parted the sea. He led hundreds of thousands of Jews across the wilderness to the land of Canaan.  Yet, Numbers 12:3 says “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.”
Moses never defended himself. He went to the Lord for help when Israel rebelled or complained. Even when his brother and sister rebelled against him in jealousy and ambition, he did nothing. He let the Lord act to vindicate him. (Numbers 12)
Jesus was meek. He said “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”. (Matthew 11:29) Jesus demonstrated the meekness is not weakness. You could hardly call Jesus weak, since endured scorn, beatings, and crucifixion without even complaining. Yet he was meek in that he submitted to the Father’s will that he suffer for our sins, being confident in the Father to raise him to glory.

Gentleness is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. The word translated there as “gentle” is the same word translated “meek” in James 3.  Therefore, the man or woman who has the Holy Spirit indwelling them, should have this meekness when in submission to the Spirit.


In contrast to good works with meekness, James says that bitter jealousy and selfish ambition show you do not have Godly wisdom. That is because jealousy and ambition come from the desire to elevate yourself or to achieve your desires rather than glorify God and edify his people.

Yes, some church people get jealous. They are jealous because someone is in charge and they are not. They get jealous when someone else is praised and they do not. They are jealous when someone gets to do something they do not, like sing a solo, speak to a group, or get a title. They are ambitious and resent not getting what someone else gets.

If you have this jealousy and\or ambition, do not boast about having true wisdom. You are lying about it and compounding your sin.

Ambition and assertiveness were values in the Greek culture of James’ day. They were signs of strength and wisdom. These traits are valued in our culture also. Self-help books do not tell you to be meek, but to assert yourself, compete, and work to get what you want.

James is clear and graphic about the source of this wisdom. He says it is earthly, unspiritual and demonic. (15)

It is earthly because it reflects the thinking of man, not God. God’s thinking and the thinking of unregenerate, unsaved, men and women are not the same. You may have even had someone say to you, “I have difficulty believing because God seems to do everything backwards or upside down from what I think he should do.”

But the fact is, it is man’s reasoning that is upside down. You see, when Adam sinned, humanity immediately began to change. It changed for the worse. Within one generation, a man felt justified in murdering his brother. God’s wisdom said do not murder. And it kept getting worse. Romans 1 tells us the mind darkened by sin becomes foolish and its thinking becomes futile. That person may claim to be wise, but has become a fool.
In Isaiah 55:8-9, God said “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declare the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than you ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”.
Because bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are earthly, they are unspiritual.  In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul tells us that the natural person cannot accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. He will not be able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. So, we expect the unsaved person to act out of jealousy and ambition, but not the one who has been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, James says that jealousy and ambition are not just earthly and unspiritual, they are demonic. That sounds pretty strong doesn’t it? How is it demonic?

It is because these things do not glorify God, they seek to glorify the person at the expense of glory to God. The devil has rebelled against God and sought to lead mankind away from God’s thinking from the beginning. All the way back to the Garden of Eden, as recorded in Genesis 3, the devil convinced the first man and woman that God’s rules were not wise and should be rejected in favor of what they wanted. Eve looked at the forbidden fruit and she desired to be made wise in opposition to God. (Genesis 3:6)

She wanted wisdom that was not God’s wisdom. She wanted to be like God in knowledge, but not in wisdom. This is what the devil wanted and still wants: to make us rebel against God and seek ourselves. That is demonic wisdom, wisdom from below.

Because jealousy and ambition are not from God, but from below, they cause disorder. They break down the fellowship. They cause rebellion against the leadership. They cause arguments that anger and hurt people. You may have experienced this at some point in your life. You can have a lovely fellowship with a group, then see it ruined when people vie for control or run each other down to other members out of jealousy.
Even the twelve disciples experienced this. Mark 9 tells us that as Jesus and the disciples walked through Galilee to Capernaum, he taught them that he would be killed, and would be resurrected. But, when the disciples talked among themselves, they did not talk about Jesus suffering and dying. They did not talk about the miracle of resurrection.They argued with each other who would be the greatest.
Ambition and jealousy were at work in them. Their fellowship was broken. They missed out on learning from Jesus because they were venting their selfish ambitions. Jesus has to tell them that being a leader of believers meant being their servant.

Yet, this message did not take hold. Mark 10 tells us that James and John asked to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in glory. They were ambitious. The other 10 disciples were indignant at them. They were jealous and upset that James and John might get better than positions than them. Again their fellowship was broken. Jesus had to give them a talk about leading and serving.

In addition to disorder, James said these traits lead to every vile practice. If we let evil desires take us over, we will commit evil actions. If you apply the world’s political maneuvers to church business, sooner or later you will commit the same sins committed by corrupt politicians. You will lie, you will gossip, and maybe worse.

In contrast to this, wisdom from above reflects God’s attributes and his standards. “from above” means “from God”. James list several traits of the person who has Godly wisdom. (17)

It is, first of all, morally pure. This is the good conduct James mentioned in verse 13. Those full of Godly wisdom live according to God’s standards of purity and holiness. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God. 1 Peter 1:16 “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy”. (1 Peter 1:16)

It is peaceable, not stirring up dissention or disorder. I don’t think James is saying we can never disagree or debate. He presided over a great debate in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. The issue was whether the Gentile believers had to circumcised and follow the law of Moses in order to be saved. In other words, did they have to become Jews to become Christians. Acts 15:6 tells us there was much debate.

But after Peter, Barnabas, and Paul spoke, the issued was settled and James announced the decision that they would not require the Gentiles to be circumcised. There was debate on a hot topic, but there was a Godly decision made in wisdom and disorder was avoided.  And, notice that the church in Antioch, Paul, and Barnabas acted in meekness, submitting themselves to the authority of the apostles and elders.

Wisdom from above is gentle, or meek, treating everyone kindly and with concern.

It is open to reason, able to sit down, listen to others, and talk about things that we disagree on, without getting mad or refusing to see the point of another person.
Wisdom from above is full of mercy and good fruits, recognizing that Jesus has been merciful to us and we should then extend mercy to others.
It is impartial, not giving the rich more privileges and respect that the average person or the poor person. James discussed this in detail in 2:1-13.
Wisdom from above is sincere. It is never fake or posturing.
James ends this discussion with a beautiful sentence in verse 18: “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” It seems like a proverb or saying that James quotes.
He is saying that those who express their wisdom through acts done in peace will be pleasing to God, which is how he defines righteousness in 1:20. And those who are pleasing to God will be rewarded in eternity.
It is God’s desire that churches exist in peace, not fighting or quarreling. That is his desire for our church. He is not pleased with divisions and disruptive behavior. Brothers and sisters, we all have things we want and things we do not want. We have preferences, But, we will not always have it our way. And that is ok.

Our church, like many churches, has divisions, quarreling, and complaining. This is not the expression of Godly wisdom. We have many that do not participate in any of that, but some who do.
Let us all remember that church is not about what pleases us. It is about what pleases God and reaches people for Christ. We cannot expect his blessing if we do not act accordingly.

Finally, remember that Godly wisdom begins with knowing God. How do you know God? How do you have a relationship with him? You only do it through Jesus Christ. You cannot expect to have heavenly wisdom if you do not know the savior from heaven. If that is your situation today, I beg you to repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus for eternal life. Romans 10:9-10 says “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart the God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

If you need to talk to someone about that, there will be people over here in the Next Steps area who are happy to talk to you.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Kindness is doing something beneficial for someone else. It is not simply having good thoughts or wishing them well. 

Monday, July 08, 2019

“Our communion with God consists in his communication of himself to us, with our return to him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him.”

John Owen , “In Communion with God “

Sunday, July 07, 2019

CHILDREN OF GOD - 1 JOHN 2:28-3:10

Abiding in Christ

Believers are to abide in Christ. “Abide” means to remain or continue. Jesus gave us the same command. (John 15:4) One of the signs that we are saved is that we abide in Christ until the end. John has already told us that those that went out from the church were never really apart of it. (1 John 2:19) 

If we abide in Christ, we will greet his appearing with confidence. John is referring to the Second Coming. Those who are in Christ will rejoice when he appears. Those who are not in Christ will shrink from him in shame. (28) 

There is a little play on words in the Greek here. The word for “confidence” is “parresia”. The word for “coming” or “appearing” is parousia. So, believers have parresia at the parousia. 

Part of abiding in Christ is to practice righteousness. We know that Christ is righteous. (29) If we have been born again (born of him), we will practice righteousness also. We will strive to be like him. 

This might be a good time to stop and look at the concept of righteousness. First, we know God is righteous. (Psalm 11:7) He always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right. 

Jesus was also righteous. He never sinned. Because he was righteous, his righteousness could be imputed to us. In Christ, the believer can stand before God and accepted as righteous rather than judged as a sinner. That is what verse 28 is talking about. We will have confidence at Christ’s appearing. 

No one can stand before God as righteous in his own works. Every person that has lived and that lives today and will ever live has sinned. (Romans 3:23) The only way you could be righteous by works would be to keep every law and commandment. Since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), we are all in trouble. We are all condemned. 

But Jesus did keep all the commandments and was without sin. Those who believe in him receive the benefit of his righteousness. Romans 3:21 says “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” 

When we believe, God declares us to be righteous. (Romans 4:22-25) We are not righteous because we have lived righteously, free of sin and in complete obedience. Rather, God declares us righteous because of our faith, just as he did with Abraham. 

Having received the benefit of Christ’s righteousness, having it imputed to us, we then want to live for him and be like him. We strive to be righteous, to obey all his commands. We do not see salvation as a permit to sin freely and the New Testament is clear that is not the case. 

It is this striving for righteousness, the practice of righteousness, that is a sign that a person believes. That person is pictured in Psalm 1, loving the law of the Lord. We will never be perfect this side of heaven, but we will strive to be. John will come back to this topic in a few verses. 

Children of God

God lavishes his love on believers, those who are in Christ. In love, he makes us his children. We are the children of God. (1) John previously taught this truth in his gospel. He wrote: “He came to his own and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13) Romans 8:29 says “for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”. We are blessed to relate to God as our Father. He treats us as his children. 

You may feel differently about God, even when calling him Father. We tend to project our feelings toward our earthly fathers onto God. If our father was strict and demanding, we see God that way. If our father was unloving, we may see God that way. It is important to stop doing this. Scripture tells us the Father made us his children out of great love. He wants the best for us. He protects us and guides us. He loves us. 

Those who reject Christ do not understand God’s children. (3:1) They do not know us, or understand us,  because they do not know him. So, we should not be surprised to find the world opposing us, ridiculing us, or trying to get rid of us. They did the same to Jesus. 

John indicates that, even though we are God’s children now, even more awaits us. He said we do not know what we will be because Jesus has not yet returned. (2) But, when he does appear, we shall be like him as we see him as he is. This implies that we will then be even more like him than we are now. But, as we wait, we must purify ourselves to be like him who is pure. (3)

Children of the Devil

In contrast to the children of God, the children of the Devil practice lawlessness. The law defines God’s moral standards. Sin is the breaking of God’s law and is, therefore, lawlessness. 

We were all, before being saved, lawless. We practiced sin. But, once we are in Christ, we do not continue to practice sin. If we do, we are not in Christ. We will certainly sin, but we will not live in continual sin. We will not practice sin. There are some that teach you can sin all you want after being saved, but that is not the teaching of the Bible. The Bible teaches that salvation is a transformation from darkness to light, from sin to righteous living. It is also a continuing transformation. We become more like Christ the longer we abide him. We sin less as we conform to his nature. 

There are those that teach you can sin continuously and still be saved. People taught that in John’s time, including some that left the churches John supervised. Some people teach that today as well. 

But John clearly says that the one who practices righteousness is righteous, or saved. (7) But the one who makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, who is the ultimate sinner. (8) Since Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil, you cannot be of the Devil and born of God at the same time. You are one or the other. And the one who has been born of God practices righteous living because God’s seed lives in him or her. 

In addition to the practice righteousness, we are to love our fellow believers. (10) Those who don’t do that, are the children of the Devil. John is very serious about believers loving their brothers and sisters in Christ.  The next passage will discuss this in detail.