Living in the Light (1 John 1:5-10)

2016-week-39As a child, I recall hearing one of my friend’s fathers tell the story of his childhood. In this particular story, my friend’s father shared how his brother tricked him into believing he had messed around with science kit that caused him to be blind. He believed his brother because when he opened his eyes he could not see anything. In reality, the only issue was the electricity had gone out. When his parents heard his screams, “I can’t see! I can’t see!” their reply was, “We can’t either. The electricity is out!” See, my friend’s father had been deceived into believing he was blind and was left in darkness. In 1 John 1:5-10 we find there are those who buy into the deception. However, this time around the Apostle John targets those who believe they are living in the light while they are truly walking in darkness. Therefore, just as John reassures those in Christ they are saved, he also exposes those who are not genuine and not truly Christian. He does this by showing what it means to live in the light. Living in the light must begin with understanding the foundation. The foundation for living in the light is God Himself. After all the message the Apostle John heard and proclaimed was this, “that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1:5). To say God is light could mean He is the one who is pure and holy. He is the standard of goodness. Pertaining to this particular passage, though, it seems apparent John emphasizes God as the One who is truth. In a world of deceptions and lies, the foundation for living in the light is God who is truth. If we say we are followers of the Light, then our lives should look like it. Our words should match our actions. What if they do not? John answers, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1:6). If we claim we are in fellowship with God and yet live apart from His Word, we are liars. We cannot live a lifestyle of darkness if we are following the One who is light and has no darkness in Him. What you say and how you live should not be telling different stories; they should be telling the same story about a great Savior. It is this great Savior John tells us about, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1:7). Living in the light means following God who is light which results in fellowship with Him. Without misunderstanding, the text is clear our living in the light is not what saves us. We are not cleansed by some work we do. We are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. The death of Jesus Christ was a significant death. He had no sin of His own to atone for but died for our sins and in our place. Because of Christ, we can be cleansed and be saved. Only because of Jesus, can we walk in the truth. Though Jesus cleanses us from all sin and we are made right before God based upon the righteousness of Christ, this does not mean we will never sin again. As Christians, we must understand the distinction between justification and sanctification. In our justification, we have been made right with God because we have been given the righteousness of Christ as a gift as He has died for our sins. Thus, we are cleansed from all sin. Still, in our sanctification and spiritual growth, we struggle with sin. To deny we struggle with sin is to deceive ourselves and to call God a liar (1:8, 10). In other words, to deny we sin denies our need for a Savior. Even for those who acknowledge sin, they make light of it by saying, “Nobody is perfect!” and “Everyone makes mistakes.” To not see your need for a Savior is to show you do not truly believe you are a sinner. You are deceived and the truth, which is God’s Word, is not in you. A sign God’s Word is in you is you recognize your sin. Being a Christian does not mean you never sin. Being a Christian means you confess your sins. When we genuinely confess our sins, acknowledging our wrongs and turning from them, we find God will forgive us. Why does God forgive us? Because of His faithfulness and His justice (1:9). God’s faithfulness and justice we seen most clearly at the cross of Jesus Christ. The parallel between verses 7 and 9 emphasizes the character of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ is what cleanses us from all unrighteousness and sin. In order to live in the light, we must first repent of our sins and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Only when we trust in Christ can we live in the light by walking in the truth.

Reflection Questions:

  • How does the foundation of God Himself help you see what it means to live in the light?
  • Does your profession of faith match the lifestyle you live? Does this bring you reassurance of your salvation?
  • Why it is important to realize for Christians that living in the light does not mean we do not sin but that we confess our sins? How can this impact our witness before a watching world?

Knowing the Word of Life (1 John 1:1-4)

2016-week-38Is it real? This question digs into the foundation of our lives to see what ground we are standing on, especially as it relates to Christianity. If we stand on truth, we are firm on the solid rock. If we try to stand on lies, we will be found sinking. With such dire consequences, each one of us must evaluate the question of what is real and examine our response to that question. We do not evaluate and examine on our own, though. The Word of God guides us. The book of 1 John serves to reassure those who are Christians of their salvation. At the same time, the book shows the true markers of faith. A Christian is one who believes the essentials of the Christian faith, who applies biblical truths in righteous living, and who lives a life of love for God and others. Throughout 1 John these three markers are painted in greater detail. The Apostle John’s purpose in writing the letter is summed up in the statement, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). One can know, or be assured, they have eternal life because they believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. A Christian’s faith in Jesus Christ is not a general belief, however. The letter opens in a descriptive manner on the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was one who John and the other apostles had heard, had seen with their own eyes, and had touched with their own hands (1:1). In other words, Jesus was God in the flesh. This is what is known as the incarnation. Jesus lived on earth as fully God and fully man. Clarity on this is crucial because there was false teaching going around during the time of 1 John called Gnosticism. It taught that salvation came from secret knowledge, not by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ. As an implication, Gnosticism held high the spiritual and deemed all that was physical and material as bad. To say Jesus came as a physical person would be wrong in the thinking of Gnosticism. But John shows us the truth of the Bible is Jesus did come in the flesh, as a physical person. The apostles were witnesses to this. John himself says, “the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and made manifest to us” (1:2). Jesus, who is life, was made known to the apostles and now the apostles testify about Jesus and His message. The eternal life John proclaims is eternal life in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life we could not, died the death we deserved in our place on the cross, rose again from the grave, and now is with the Father, interceding for us. This the message of Jesus Christ proclaimed. This message demands a response. The proper response to the person and work of Christ is for each one of us to realize we have sinned against a good and holy God, deserving death and His wrath, and knowing we cannot save ourselves by good works. We repent of our sins and turn to Christ by trusting in Him as our Savior and Lord. When we respond to the gospel like that, we have fellowship. Our fellowship contains both horizontal and vertical dimensions. We commune with other believers in Christ on the basis of our communion with God the Father and God the Son (1:3). When we believe in the Son of God, we will find a joy made complete (1:4). To find assurance of eternal life and to be satisfied with a joy made complete comes by knowing the Word of Life.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is it important to the Christian faith that Jesus was both fully God and fully man?
  • As a Christian, how can you join in fellowship with God and with other Christians this week?

Book Review: Good and Angry

I would consider myself even-tempered. If confronted with the question, “Do you have an anger problem?”, I would likely say I do not. That was until I read David Powlison’s latest book Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness. This book is a heart-exposing, clarifying work. It exposes the reader to the sinful motives of their heart while also showing that anger can be and produce good when it is handled rightly.

The book is divided up into four sections. Biblical surgeon David Powlison begins by making the case we all have anger issues. The problem is not anger itself but how we handle anger. Anger is a complex thing and with the claim we all have anger issues, Powlison takes the next section to define anger and elaborate on the effect of anger on the whole person. In this section, Powlison is clear we often respond with anger sinfully and, sadly, do not get angry at injustices we do see in a fallen world. The last two chapters of the second section point to the character of God, particularly to the wrath of God, on how to be good and angry. With the hope we are redeemable as our anger is redeemable (Powlison 122), Powlison moves into section three where he lays out eight questions on how we can identify our problem and make steps toward the process of change. The book ends with section four, which tackles the hard cases of never getting over a circumstance or person, of everyday anger issues, of anger to self, and of anger at God.good-and-angry-by-david-powlison

In the opening pages of the book, Powlison states, “My chief goal in this book is to teach you how to more fruitfully and honestly deal with your anger” (Powlison 2). In only seventeen chapters, Powlison seems to equip the reader to begin the process. Powlison sets the tone of the book “as an honest conversation about something that really matters” (Powlison 3). In that vein, the “Making It Your Own” sections at the conclusion of each chapter reiterates this conversation and calls for the reader to engage and apply the truth they are learning. The book does not seek to give a technique, strategy, or insight fool-proof method. Rather, it’s desire is to point you to the light of God’s Word. Good and Angry reminds the reader the problem is not anger itself but the human heart which stores such anger. For this reason, this book is a heart-exposing, biblically-clarifying book. There should be righteous anger and right response to the injustices we see in a fallen world. We see our God as an example of that and how His anger is revealed in the gospel. Because of the gospel, our anger is redeemable. We do not have to live a lifestyle of sinful anger. By God’s grace, we can learn how to handle anger rightly.

Good and Angry is book about your anger. It will open your eyes to identifying your anger problem. It will call you to confession and change. I plan on re-reading through this book in the future with an accountability partner. This book is likely to be best used when it is read with others in an open and trusting community. James 1:19 says we ought to be “slow to anger”. I encourage you to be slow while reading this book. The way Powlison writes and drives the reader back to Scripture will encourage the reader to reflect and take their time in listening and applying. Simply put, I wholeheartedly recommend Good and Angry by David Powlison to any Christian who struggles with anger, which is all of us.

I received this book for free from New Growth Press via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Sheep Without a Shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38)

2016-week-37This week’s devotional was written by Ethan Thomas. Ethan is a graduate from Crossroads Bible College, where he received a B.S. in Biblical Counseling and a B.S. in Management & Ethics. He is happily married to his wife, Grace. He currently leads worship and is actively involved in other ministries at Tri-County Bible Church in Rensselaer, Indiana.

This past June, my wife and I had the opportunity to go to Indonesia. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and home to the world’s largest Muslim population. One evening, we had supper overlooking the city of Luwuk. The missionary with us said that out of all the people in the city of Luwuk (80,000), roughly one to two hundred are believers. We were looking at a city spiritually lost and without hope. It was overwhelming to see so many people and to think of them never hearing the gospel or not believing it.

Matthew 9:35-38 really summarizes what we felt that night in Indonesia. The Word of the Lord says, “35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” [1]

This passage of scripture sets up what some people view as Jesus’ second major ‘sermon’ in the book of Matthew (chapter 10). The focus of this ‘sermon’ is on missions. Verse 35 gives the backdrop that leads up to this teaching.  Everywhere Jesus went there were people who desperately needed a Savior. As Jesus traveled throughout the country, His disciples were with Him, observing and listening to all that He taught. Verse 36 illustrates how much of a need there is for the gospel. Depending on your Bible translation, the people in verse 36 are described as helpless, troubled, weary, and sheep without a shepherd. They are spiritually lost. The same can be said of anyone who has not placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

Verses 37 and 38 illustrate the need for believers to share the gospel and make disciples. Warren Wiersbe comments on these verses by saying, “He (Jesus) requested that His disciples pray that God would provide the needed workers. It was not long before the disciples themselves were involved in the ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing (see Matt. 10). In the same way, when we pray as He commanded, we will see what He saw, feel what He felt, and do what He did.[2]” God changes our hearts as we faithfully pray, seeking to adhere to His will for our lives.

We have a tendency to read theses verses in the context of praying for other people to be sent and not ourselves. The Great Commission is a command to EVERY believer to share the gospel and be the light of Jesus wherever they are. In the book Radical, David Platt states, “We have taken this command and reduced it to a calling – something only a few people receive (72-73).” If we pray to be used and sent by God, it can drastically change our lives. For our focus will not be fixed on earthly things but on eternal things. Jesus Christ has already completed and finished the work. It is up to us to share the gospel.

Reflection Questions:

  • Are you praying for opportunities to share the gospel where you are?
  • Have you been praying earnestly for laborers to be sent out into the harvest?
  • When was the last time you spoke to someone with the purpose of bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?
  • When was the last time you contributed to the development of another person’s spiritual maturity by participating in an act of discipleship?

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 9:35–38.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), Mt 9:35–38.

Eternal Perspective (Colossians 3:1-4)

2016-Week 36There are many things constantly trying to get our attention and convince us that we deserve the latest and greatest thing. Sadly, these things often succeed. In the busyness of life, our time is precious and so often we waste it by filling it up with things that, in the long run, do not matter. In order to change this, we need to have a renewed thought process. This year the Lord has constantly been bringing Colossians 3:1-4 to my mind. These verses have helped me to view my time, situation, circumstances, and daily choices through a different mindset. While I am far from perfect, I can see how learning these verses has been a great benefit in that I am able to serve the Lord more effectively.

Paul wrote the book of Colossians to instruct the early church to address some of the same issues our churches face today. Paul addresses some of the doctrinal heresies that were creeping into the church. He realized that society could hurt the integrity of Christian faith and practice. The main focus of Colossians chapters one and two is on the supremacy of Christ and the work that He accomplished. Colossians 3 focuses on the practical application of the truths taught in the previous chapters.

Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

If you have been born again and have placed your faith in Christ than you are no longer ruled by this world. Instead you have the ability to fix your mind on the eternal realities of heaven. If you have not repented of your sins, then you are not able to fix your mind on eternal things. For a believer, there is incredible truth in verse one. By stating Christ is seated at the right hand of God, it affirms that the work that He came to earth to accomplish has been completed. Therefore, we have hope and assurance that though this world is temporary, we have so much to look forward to – we have assurance of our redemption and that heaven is real.

Verse 2 begins with the word ‘set.’ The Greek verb for this word emphasizes an ongoing decision. It is not a one-time decision to set your mind on things above; it is a daily decision. Every decision we make is either made with an earthly mindset (temporary) or eternal mindset (everlasting). It is easy to know what mindset we should have but many times our actions are contrary to this. We desire that newer vehicle, the latest electronic device, comfort, family close by, wealth, and the list could go on. We tend to desire the things that are visible and tangible, but those things are only temporary. We must ask ourselves, “What motive do I have for wanting this?” So many good things can easily become idols. Therefore, we need to be on guard so the things that do not last do not easily ensnare us.

Verse 3 continues to give encouragement to the believer. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Since Christ has completed the work, we can live in such a way that we have confidence of being His and living for Him and with Him in glory. This life is temporary; we do not want to waste the life we have been given. Warren Weirsbe summarizes these verses by saying, “In brief, Paul says, ‘Live up to what Christ has done for you!’”[1] All of our thoughts and actions reflect what we believe.

Reflection Questions:

  • When you make decisions, do you consider your motive?
  • When people look at your life, do they see a life that reflects an eternal perspective or an earthly perspective? In what ways does your life reflect an eternal perspective? In what ways does your life reflect an earthly perspective?
  • Does your life reflect what Christ has done for you?

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992), 582.

This week’s devotional was written by Ethan Thomas. Ethan is a graduate from Crossroads Bible College, where he received a B.S. in Biblical Counseling and a B.S. in Management & Ethics. He is happily married to his wife, Grace. He currently leads worship and is actively involved in other ministries at Tri-County Bible Church in Rensselaer, Indiana.

Standing Firm in the Faith (1 Peter 5:8-14)

2016-Week 35I hate driving on the interstate in the pouring rain. I am not talking driving in a drizzle. I am talking about when the rain is coming down so fast the windshield wipers cannot keep up with them. It makes it hard to see where you are at and are going. The same is true for the hardships and sufferings we face in life. Oftentimes, when we face trials and when we go through trying circumstances, it can be easy to lose perspective. We begin to isolate ourselves and become bitter because this is not the life we had desired or expected. Yet, for those who are Christians, we must be aware of what is going on around us. As Christians, God has given us the Bible to reveal Himself to do guide us in the proper perspective. We must remember He cares for us (5:7). This is crucial because there is one who would tell you the lie God doesn’t care. The Apostle Peter exposes this liar in 1 Peter 5:8, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” His plan is to tempt you and cause to fall into his trap. Sadly, many have. They have given the devil a foothold and he has made himself at home. But if you have repented of your sins and have trusted in Jesus Christ, you do not give in to the schemes of the devil and lose the perspective of God’s Word. As a Christian, in these times you need to be sober-minded and watchful (5:8). You need to remember the Christian life is a battle and you must be prepared by the power of the Holy Spirit to face it. Through God’s strength, we resist the devil by standing firm in the faith (5:9a). When there are those who ridicule us for our love for Jesus and even those who would threaten us because we hold to the beliefs of the Bible, we do not cave in. Instead, we stand firm. To be sure, we do not stand firm alone. We have brothers and sisters in Christ around us and around the world who face hardships and suffer for their faith in Christ (5:9). The fact we are not alone should bring some comfort. Still, suffering is hard. That is why Peter continues, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Our trials and sufferings are not without purpose and we do not live without hope. We can be encouraged in the midst of our suffering because it is temporary. For those who repent of their sins and believe in the God of all grace through Jesus Christ will be saved and will enjoy eternal glory. Suffer for a little while to enjoy the glory of Christ for eternity. For the Christian, that is the proper perspective. Declare and stand firm in the true grace of God (5:12). God is working things for His children’s good. He will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish them. Because of His work in us, we can stand firm. Because of His power, we can resist the devil. Because of His grace, we can be saved. May we say with the Apostle Peter about our God, “To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (5:11).

Reflection Questions:

  • How does this passage help you view your sufferings and hardships from a biblical perspective?
  • Why is it tempting during times of trials to give into the temptations of the devil? How can you remind yourself to stand firm in the faith this week?

Clothed with Humility (1 Peter 5:5-7)

2016-Week 34I have never been one to go with the current or popular fashion trends. I do not pay too much attention to the latest news in clothing. I do, however, like the style of bowties and fadoras. When it comes down to it, whether or not we favor a particular style, we wear something. We clothe ourselves. This analogy works in our inner lives as well. After exhorting his fellow elders to shepherd the people of God in the midst of suffering, the Apostle Peter turns his face toward those younger. In a general sense, too, what he is about to say applies to all who are under the leadership God has entrusted the church with. The command we see to those younger in the faith and in life is they are to submit to the leadership of the church. In an autonomous and individualized culture, the word submission is an ugly word. The church, though, is called to be counter-cultural. A great example of this is my friend Katelyn. Recently, she made the comment her pastor preaches both biblically and boldly. He preaches with biblical conviction and Christlike compassion. Her response to his leadership was and is willing submission. Why? Because when the pastors of the church are shepherding in accordance with the Word of God, then to submit to their godly leadership is a beautiful thing. Still, as those who struggle with sin, we do not like to always submit. That is why humility is required. In order to submit to those in authority, we must be humble. In our salvation, we need to be humbled, resulting in repentance of our sins and trust in Christ for salvation because we cannot save ourselves. This humility is not something that we need to have every so often but, rather, something we need every day of our lives. That is why Peter puts it in the terms of verse 5, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another”. The permanent fashion style and trend for the Christian is humility. Humility is seen in a person who is willing to submit to godly leadership and is a reflection of those who have been given the grace of God. Not only is humility made known in submitting to church leadership; humility is made known in casting sufferings and anxieties on God. We cannot handle life on our own. We are not self-sufficient. When we face hardships and sufferings in this life, we can be overwhelmed. Instead of trying to deal with it in our own power, which is pride, we need to humble ourselves and depend on the power and character of God. He is the One who is mighty and He is One who cares for us. Therefore, we humble ourselves by depending on Him. We humble ourselves by submitting to godly leadership. That is how we clothe ourselves in humility.

Reflection Questions:

  • How can you clothe yourself in humility this week by submitting to godly leadership?
  • How can you clothe yourself in humility this week by casting your anxieties and worries on the mighty and powerful God who cares for you?