Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Pain and Suffering

“Is not some of the pain and sorrow in this life used in God’s providential hand to make us homesick for heaven, to detach us from this world, to prepare us for heaven, to draw our attention to himself, and away from the world of merely physical things?”

Don Carson

Sunday, August 25, 2019


Assurance of Salvation

Jesus told Nicodemus, the Pharisee, the one must be born again, or from above, to see the kingdom of God. He explained the one must be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. John recorded that message in chapter 3 of his gospel. Jesus went on to say, in what is the most famous verse in the New Testament, that one who believes in Jesus as the only Son of God would have eternal life. (John 3:16)

So, we see that, for one to be saved (have eternal life), one must be changed from his or her old self who does not believe, to his or her new self that does believe. That change is a work of God. It is particularly the work of God the Holy Spirit. One must be born of the Spirit. We call this work “regeneration”.

One must believe in Jesus as God’s Son to have eternal life. Therefore, a sign that one has eternal life is that one believes in Jesus as God’s son. (1) One who has been born again loves the Father, loves the Son, and loves the ones born of the Father. Believers are those born of the Father. Love for Christian brothers and sisters as a sign of regeneration is a constant theme in this letter. Love for brothers and sisters in Christ also implies a love of the church, the gathering of those who love the Father and the Son.

How do we know we love the children of God?  We know this when we love God and obey his commandments.  (2) John has this circle going in this letter: if we love God, we keep his commandments and love our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we keep his commandments and love our brothers and sisters, we know that we love God.

This seems to be a reflection of the “greatest commandment”. Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, and he replied ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Next John makes a dramatic, and counter-cultural statement, that God’s commands are not burdensome. Well, a lot of people think they are burdensome, don’t they? They say his commandments are no longer applicable to modern society, that they keep us from being happy, or even that they are mean.

Those people have not experienced regeneration. The heart that has not been changed is hostile to God and his commandments. But the heart that has been changed loves God and wants to please him. Believers realize God wants the best for them and that his commandments are meant to accomplish that. Living your best life now is not being wealthy and popular. It is living within God’s will.

That is why the “beatitudes” in Matthew 5 say repeatedly “blessed are …” then describing the poor in spirit, those who seek righteousness, this who are merciful and so on. They are blessed, receiving the favor of God, when they live according to God’s commandments.

Jesus 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30. It is restful and delightful to live under the yoke of Christ. HIs commandments are not burdensome.

The world does not understand this and is hostile to it, but we know we have overcome the world by our faith in Christ. To the original readers of this letter, John likely meant the “world” to be those who left the church and had been preaching false doctrines. Those false doctrines seem to include denying that Jesus is the Messiah and God’s Son, that he came and took on human flesh, that he actually, physically died, and that his death was for our sins. John’s readers overcame them, their teaching, and any doubt that their teaching might cause, by their faith in Jesus as they had been taught all along by John and others.

For us, the “world” is everyone who teaches anything other than the gospel in which we believe and God’s Word, the Bible. No matter how forcefully or charmingly false doctrine is taught, you defeat it by turning to God’s Word for the truth and standing on it, always believing that Jesus is the Son of God.

Who Is Jesus Christ?

So, who is this Jesus in whom you believe? It is he who came by water and blood. He came by water in that he baptized, or had his disciples baptize, all of those who believed in him. He also came by blood, giving his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. John says he not only came by water, baptizing believers, with which the false teachers would agree, but also by blood, dying for our sins, which the false teachers did not believe or teach. That is why John wrote that Jesus came not by water only, but by the water and the blood. (6)

The Holy Spirit also testifies to these truths and agrees that Jesus came by water and blood. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. He testifies to believers that the gospel message is true: Jesus came in the flesh and died for our sins on the cross.

The testimony of God is always greater than the testimony of men. (9) Since it is, the implication is we should accept it. We know that the Father testified to the Son. He did it by giving numerous prophecies in the Old Testament that point to Jesus. Even more so, at Jesus’ baptism, a voice spoke from heaven that said “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. (Matthew 3:17)

Again, at Jesus’ transfiguration, a voice from the bright cloud which overshadowed them said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to them”. (Matthew 17:5)

Jesus also testified to himself as the Son, a testimony heard by John firsthand and communicated to the church in his preaching, and then recorded by John in his gospel.

If we believe in the Son of God, we have this testimony in ourselves. We have the Holy Spirit in us, testifying to our spirits and our consciences that Jesus is the Son of God as we agree to that in faith. But those who do not believe make God out to be a liar. God has testified and they dispute it, essentially calling God a liar by their unbelief. What a horrible position to be in, making Holy God out to be a liar!

God’s testimony to us, in addition to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, is that God gave us eternal life in his Son. That again is the message of John 3:16. Whoever has the Son has life. Those who do not have the Son do not have life.

No other provision is made by God for eternal life!


In conclusion, John said he wrote the letter to give assurance of salvation. He wrote so they would know they had eternal life, despite anything the false teachers might say.

In addition to eternal life, we have a special relationship with God so that he will hear all of our prayers that are given in accordance with his will, and he will grant those requests.

There are those who teach that God will let a believer go astray, out of his will, even though the believer is earnestly seeking God. I do not agree with this. If we pray according to his will, he will grant our requests. He does not make that promise for things that are out of his will. He may not grant those.

As part of prayers, our asking, we should pray for those who commit sins that do not lead to death. John says if we do, God will give him life. God will answer prayers for those in sin, granting repentance and forgiveness. But, he will not give life to those who reject Christ, believing and teaching falsely about him. A lack of saving faith cannot be forgiven. (16)

John repeated his instruction that those who are born of God do not live a life of continual sin, for God protects the believer from the evil one. (17) We, the believers, are born of God and receive this protection. But those in the world do not, and are under the power and influence of the evil one.

We can understand this things because we are in Christ, who gives us understanding. (20) He is true, he is the true God, and he is eternal life. We must devote ourselves to him.

We must keep ourselves from any belief, attitude, or practice that stands in the place of Jesus. Anything less than faith in him as the Son of God is idolatry. (21)  

Saturday, August 24, 2019

What Matters

"What matters most is not how gifted we are but how loving we are." Philip Ryken, Loving the Way Jesus Loves.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Hope In Eschatology

Titus 2:13-14 says we are waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness. We, as believers, look forward to the return of Jesus. It is our blessed hope. It is our hope because, upon his return, our bodies will be purged from sin. We will be transformed to be like him. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

And Then What Happened?

When my daughters were young, I often read to them. At the end of many books, one of my daughters often asked "and then what happened?" It was not enough that the prince and the maiden lived happily ever after. She wanted to know what happened next.

Most evangelical churches make a big deal about Easter Sunday, or as I like to call it Resurrection Sunday. We sing songs about the empty tomb and hear sermons about the resurrection and what it means to our lives. 

Then we go back to our regularly scheduled programming. But, if my daughter were involved, she would ask "and then what happened?".  

Here is what happened.

After Jesus rose, he appeared to many people. First, he appeared to Mary Magdalene. (Mark 16:9). Mark did not reveal what Jesus told her, but John did. (John 20:15-18) Mary ran and told his disciples that he was alive and she had seen him. Sadly, they did not believe her. But Peter and John evidently did, for they ran to the tomb. (John 20:1-10) Also with Mary at the tomb were Joanna and Mary the mother of James and some other women. Jesus appeared to all of them. (Luke 24) 

Jesus then appeared to two of the disciples who were walking from Jeruslaem to Emmaus. He explained the Bible to them. (Luke 24:13-35). He ate with them, rhwn cNIAHWS. 

Later that day, Jesus appeared to the disciples as they hid in a locked room. (John 20:19-23) He showed them his wounds to prove it was him and that he had risen bodily. 

Eight days later, Jesus appeared to the disciples again. Thomas was not with them previously, and did not believe. But Jesus showed him his wounds and he believed. (John 20:24-29) 

Later still, Jesus appeared to several disciples who were fishing with Peter. He directed them to where they caught many fish. Jesus ate breakfast with them. (John 21) He also met with Peter and commissioned him to feed his sheep. 

Jesus then appeared to more than 500 people, many of whom were still alive as witnesses when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. I imagine Luke interviewed many of them. Then Jesus appeared to James, likely James his brother who became the first leader of the Jerusalem church (1 Corinthians 15:7) Eventually he appeared to all the apostles. He evidently spent 40 days on earth after the resurrection. (Acts 1:3) 

Jesus' final act on earth was his ascension. He took the disciples to Bethany. He lifted up his hands and blessed them. Then he ascended to heaven. (Luke 24:50). Before ascending, he directed them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit and commissioned them to take the gospel over all the earth. (Acts 1:8) Then he rose up until a cloud blocked their view of him. (Acts 1:9) And, finally, he was exalted to the right hand of the Father. (Acts 2:33) 

And that is what happened.

Of course, the story really does not end there, either. There is more to come. In fact, I have saved the best for last 

Jesus will reign there until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:25) Then he will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the sound of the trumpet of God. He will raise the dead in Christ, then those who are alive in Christ, all to meet him in the air and be with him forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

GOD IS LOVE - 1 JOHN 4:7-21

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.