Examining Ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-34)

I have always been intrigued by the job of a detective. Pieces of evidence and details people may gloss over detectives stop and study. They take a closer look, examining the material. Their purpose in doing this is to find something that will expose the person guilty of the crime. Now, translate the work of a detective to Christians partaking in the Lord’s Supper. As Christians, we must hear the Apostle Paul’s exhortation, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (11:28). In other words, before we partake of remembering and proclaiming Christ by eating the bread and drinking cup, we need to examine our hearts. The reason we ought to examine ourselves is to see if there is any unconfessed sin in our lives. If there is unconfessed sin, the proper response is to repent of it. We are to do the work of a detective, if you will, by studying and examining our own hearts. If we refuse to examine and repent, then we partake in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (11:27). This does not come without consequences. These consequences of partaking unworthily speak to the significance of the Lord’s Supper.

What exactly are such results? In two words: guilt and judgment. For the person who eats the bread and drinks the cup without examining their heart, the word of the Lord says that person is guilty concerning the very thing they are supposed to be remembering and proclaiming in taking the Lord’s Supper (11:27). Put another way, in the Lord’s Supper we, Christians, remember and proclaim the death of Christ. When we partake of the elements in an unworthy manner we sin, revealing our guilt. Moreover, the Christian who fails to examine themselves eats and drinks judgment on themselves. For the Corinthians, the unexamined issue was around church unity and caring for others in the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:17–22, 33–34). Although division was the specific concern Paul addressed in the Corinthian church, any unconfessed sin leads to partaking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Whatever the sin may be, what is this judgment one eats and drinks upon themselves? It is the disciplinary judgment of God (11:31–32). For Christians, they are in Christ and cannot be condemned as unbelievers in the world (see Romans 8:1). However, a follower of Christ does face the discipline of God when they have unrepentant sin in their life (see Hebrews 12:6). Simply put, to neglect examining yourself before partaking in the Lord’s Supper is to bring the disciplinary judgment of God upon yourself. For the Corinthians, this disciplinary judgment took the form of weakness, illness, and even death (11:30). For us, it may take a different form. We may not become physically ill and may not die, but there will most assuredly be serious consequences.

Therefore, the next time you partake in the Lord’s Supper, examine your heart and life. The purpose of taking the elements, the bread and cup, is to remember and proclaim the death of Christ, not to bring the judgment of God upon yourself (11:34). In examining ourselves and repenting if need be, we honor the Lord by taking His Supper in a worthy manner.

Reflection Questions:

  • How does 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 relate to the significance of the Lord’s Supper?
  • Why is it important to examine yourself before you partake of the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Supper?

This post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Remember and Proclaim (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

If two people say they love each other, then what is the proper step for them to take to declare that love publicly? The proper step is a wedding ceremony. In the wedding ceremony, the couple exchanges vows, verbalizing their commitment to one another. While not all vows are taken seriously, the wedding ceremony should be the occasion where the meaning of marriage and the significance of marriage is made known. Matters like this are not limited to wedding ceremonies, though. Within the church, a ceremony exists. This ceremony is an ordinance known as the Lord’s Suppe or communion. The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is not to be taken without understanding the meaning and significance of the event. If we fail to understand and apply what the Lord’s Supper means, we will fail to be taking the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Corinthians 11:20). The Apostle Paul knew this and that is why in his letter to the Corinthian church he takes space to remind and exhort the Christians in Corinth to realize the meaning and significance.

The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper: Remember and Proclaim

Before we can consider the significance of the Lord’s Supper (as we will look at next week), we need to grasp the meaning of it. This meaning precedes Paul and takes us back to the words of Jesus. In Matthew 26 we read Jesus and His disciples were making preparations to eat the Passover meal. It was within that context the Lord Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26–29). How does knowing that contribute to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Well, the Passover meal was instituted by God to the people of Israel for His act of deliverance and redemption for them as they were delivered from Pharaoh and Egyptian slavery. With the Passover meal the Israelites were to remember and proclaim their redemption from Egypt (see Exodus 12:14, 25–27). Put simply, in celebrating the Passover the people of Israel remembered and proclaimed.

What Jesus does with His disciples in the Lord’s Supper, then, is He institutes a new Passover meal. The purpose of this new Passover meal is for the same purpose, to remember and to proclaim, but on a greater scale. The deliverance and redemption were not merely from physical slavery and oppression. The deliverance and redemption in this new meal was from spiritual slavery and oppression, sin and death.

How would this deliverance and redemption occur? For that, we look to the elements used to remember and proclaim. The bread and wine cup are meant to represent and symbolize the body and blood of Jesus. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “the Lord Jesus…took bread, and when he has given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (11:23–25). The bread we partake in the Lord’s Supper is meant to symbolize the body of the One who was put to death on a cross in our place. Jesus took the punishment we deserved for our sin and He absorbed the wrath of God that we may be forgiven. By the blood of Jesus we can enter into a New Covenant. This New Covenant does what the Old Covenant was not able to provide (see Romans 3:20). In the New Covenant, God gives a new heart and puts a new spirit in all who believe in Him (Jeremiah 31:31; Ezekiel 36:26–27). This means by which this can occur is through the blood of Jesus Christ.

In partaking of the bread and the cup, we not only remember the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. We also proclaim it. The Apostle Paul continues, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (11:26). All who partake in the Lord’s Supper, that is those who have repented of their sin and have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, make a proclamation. When they take the Lord’s Supper with others Christians in the church gathering, they are proclaiming the death and, by implication, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bread and cup portray what Christ has done for those who believe in Him. Those who believe in Him, then, proclaim until Christ returns what He has accomplished on the cross. His death on the cross was not the end, however. He has risen from the dead and He is coming back. We proclaim Him and what He has done in the gospel while we anticipate His return. That is what we remember and proclaim.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is remembering the Lord’s Supper important to the Christian faith?
  • In what way does partaking in the Lord’s Supper proclaim Christ’s death?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

How Long? (Psalm 13)

I am learning to be content in my current season of life. As a single, the LORD is teaching me the blessings of singleness. Still, a desire for marriage remains on the forefront of my mind and heart. At 25 years old and only a short-term relationship to account for, questions of timing loom. Yes, I know everything will happen according to God’s will in God’s timing. But waiting for a relationship to happen sometimes feels like asking, “How long, O LORD?” I am sure you have experienced the same sentiment. Maybe you are not waiting for a relationship to happen. You may be hoping a wayward child will see their error and return to you and to God. You may be praying for your spouse to quit pursuing the lusts of the world and, instead, show their love to you. You may be crying out to God as one who has recently been diagnosed with an illness or cancer. Whatever the situation may be, many of us find ourselves asking God, “How long?”

How Long?

We are not alone in asking this question. Faced with some type of opposition, King David asked this question too. In Psalm 13, we hear King David open up by asking four times, “How long?” He says:

  • “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (v. 1a)
  • “How long will you hide your face from me?” (v. 1b)
  • “How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” (v. 2a)
  • “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (v. 2b)

In asking these questions, David is not accusing the LORD of unfaithfulness. Nor is David stating the LORD has mentally forgotten about him. Understanding the Psalms as Hebrew poetry, what David is doing here is expressing his feelings. Amid his circumstances, David says he feels as if the LORD is indifferent toward him. Judging by his feelings and surroundings, it appears God has abandoned him, hiding His face from him. What leads David to despair is this feeling. With nowhere else to turn he takes counsel in his own soul and finds himself drowned in sorrow. By the looks of it, David’s enemy has the upper hand.

Dealing with Feelings

How does David deal with his feelings? Because the LORD does not feel present, does David settle into despair? Verse 1 gives us a clue the answer to such a question is “No!” Although it may appear God is in hiding, David still addresses God, “How long, O LORD?” Moreover, verses 3–4 give further evidence David deals with his feelings by bringing them to the LORD. He pleads, “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (13:3). Whether he is speaking figuratively or literally in the second half of the verse regarding this sleep, David seeks to hear from the LORD in the hopes of things being brought to light. The purpose of David’s petition is so that David’s enemies may not boast in seeing David down.

Faith-Informed Feelings

After hearing David’s petition, one may assume to find the LORD’s answer. However, we do not find such in the closing verses of this psalm. Instead, we find feeling informed by faith in God. David’s closing remarks are a blueprint for how we ought to respond when we are faced with trying circumstances in life. When we do not understand what God is doing and when it appears as if He has left the situation, we should respond with David, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (13:5–6). We should not neglect our feelings but neither should we allow them to rule our lives. We must allow our faith to inform our feelings. How do we do this? By looking to the cross. The steadfast love of God was displayed on the cross, where Jesus Christ took the punishment we deserved for our sins by dying in our place for the forgiveness of sins. If we have trusted in this steadfast loving God, then we can rejoice in the salvation we have received. When we look to the cross, we see God loves us and cares for us. Faith-informed feelings, then, tell us to focus our eyes on the cross, not our circumstances. We will most certainly still have moments where we ask “How long?” but we ask it knowing God is there with us, not away from us.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is a current situation or circumstance in your life where you are asking, “How long?” How does this trial affect your view of the character of God?
  • Why should faith in God inform our feelings amidst circumstances and situations we face?
  • How does the gospel impact our view of God and of our circumstances?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

An Exhortation to Praise God (Psalm 150)

ww_psalmsThe Scriptures possess that peculiarity of being understood by a child while boggling the mind of the scholar, and the last psalm is no exception. After reading it to my three-year old daughter, I asked her, “What do you think our Papa God wanted us to do with this psalm?” Her response was, “To praise Him…with lots of instruments”.

Although praising Him is the central message of the psalm, as Christians we might be tempted to restrict and/or downplay its whole meaning as just a passage about worship time in church. But we should be wary of our own presuppositions! For starters, even though we don’t know who the author was, we can be certain that the psalmist did not write this with a church’s morning service in mind. In God’s providence, He allowed this to be the last of 150 psalms recorded in five different books. Thus, this psalm serves as the ending of the fifth book, as well as the whole Psalter[1].

Two conclusions can be drawn from this: 1) As the fifth book begins and ends with a call to praise God (Ps. 107), we can see praise as a common element within the Christian life in the middle of struggles, enemies’ attacks, times of afflictions, times of prosperity and other topics covered in the fifth book; 2) A similar conclusion can be drawn by taking the whole Psalter, which begins with the two ways of man: the way of life and the way of death (Ps. 1). He who chooses the way of life might go through all the blessings and difficulties described in the Psalms, but at the end of his life, he will be able to praise God. The blessed man will always praise God at the end of the day, but there is no song for those who choose the way of the wicked, and once they pass through the gates of death, there will be no praise in their graves (Ps. 6:5).

Moreover, it is easy to trivialize everything related to music in our contemporary mindset. We automatically classify it in the “entertainment” section of our minds. But the Scriptures don’t approve of such mentality. Take Deuteronomy 32 as an example. Did you know that God chose to warn Israel with a song He wrote? God commanded Moses to write it as a witness to testify against their future wickedness (Dt. 31:19-22), and right after finishing the song, He gave the following warning: “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life…” (Deut. 32:47). Surely there is nothing trivial about this song!

Psalm 150 contains 13 admonitions to praise God. It is rather clear that God wants us to praise Him on a constant basis. In contrast, we read in Romans 1:21 how Paul brings the two main accusations against all humankind and one of them is lack of praise (“they neither glorify God…”). This shows how serious God feels about praising His name. Psalm 150 can be divided into four sections that can be easily remembered: 1) Where to praise (v.1), 2) why praise (v. 2), 3) how to praise (v.v. 3-5), and 4) who ought to praise (v. 6).

  1. Where: God wants us to praise Him in His sanctuary and in His mighty heavens. Although space does not allow us to make a deep study, we can easily infer that praise should be made in His presence. Of course, Israel understood this verse as praising Him in the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where heavens and earth met and the most revered place in the world. But now, He lives within our hearts. Thus, it is not about going to a physical place. It is a matter of disposition of the heart, to be face to face with Him and all the spiritual realities that come with it.
  2. Why: Praise is not to be made in an intellectual vacuum. There must be valid reasons for us to come with offerings of praise, and verse 2 summarizes these reasons for us: praise Him for what He has done (acts of power) and for who He is (His greatness).
  3. How: This passage must be a favorite for musicians, because it describes the varying arrays of musical possibilities. There is the wind section, strings, and percussion for a whole orchestra. There is a place for mellow styles (harp and flutes) and upbeat styles (resounding cymbals and trumpets), with dancing and joy. Most of all, God wants us to praise with instruments made by our own hands through our creativity and skill. He even gives us clearance to create new songs, and requires a certain standard of quality (Ps. 33:3).
  4. Who: On account of His creation, God takes the prerogative as the object of praise. Psalm 148 describes not only living beings but the creation as a whole praising Him: trees and animals; angels and mountains; everything that has been created praises the Creator.

Let us then praise the Lord. Praise Him in His holy presence. Praise Him for who He is and what He has done. Praise Him with music and joy. Praise Him with your every breath. Praise the Lord!

Reflection Questions

  • Do you think God is pleased in the praise you offer to Him?
  • Does it strike you as odd that the Almighty God wants us to praise with music and instruments
  • What conclusions can you make by the fact that the largest book of the Bible is a songbook?

[1] Actually, Psalm 150 is also the last section of the last “Hallel” (Ps. 145-150), which also begins with a call to exalt and praise Him (Ps. 145:1).

huriThis week’s devotional was written by Huri Cañas. Born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Huri has been in the US since moving there in 2010. He received his Bachelor degree at Crossroads Bible College in Urban Leadership and is pursuing a Master’s degree with Indianapolis Theological Seminary. He is actively involved in worship at Neighborhood Fellowship and Zionsville Fellowship. Most importantly, he is blessed with his wife Gina and their two lovely daughters, Isabella and Alessia.

Blessed Are The Forgiven (Psalm 32)

ww_psalmsWe all desire happiness. We all are seeking joy in all we do. The reason we do what we do is because we are looking for a pleasure that will satisfy. The issue is not in the pursuit but in the things we pursue. We can pursue the wrong things. And we can pursue good things but with bad motives or in the wrong way. This is certainly the spot King David found himself in. As leader of Israel, he stayed behind while the men of Israel went out to battle (2 Samuel 11:1). While he remained at home in his comfort, he sought to find pleasure by satisfying his sexual desire, culminating in committing adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah the Hittite’s wife (2 Samuel 11:2–5). That act of idolatry led to a snowball effect of sin. David attempted to cover up his sin. Eventually, he was found out (see 2 Samuel 12:1–12). How did he respond? We can see from 2 Samuel 12:13 and from Psalm 51 that David responded with repentance. Psalm 32, too, recounts David’s expression of confession and teaches us what it means to live the blessed life.

The Blessing of Confessing

If we would be honest, we are much like David. When we sin, our immediate response is not to bring it out into the open. Instead, we try to conceal our sin from being known. We do not want others to know that secret sin we struggle with. We may especially try to hide it if we are around unbelievers because we are Christians and we are to be a witness. If we share our struggle, what will they think? The truth is, though, as Christians, we do not cover our sins; we confess them. If we attempt to cover and conceal our sin, then we will feel the way David felt, aching and groaning while facing a spiritual drought (32:3–4). If we confess them, however, we will see as David did that the Lord forgives (32:5). When we acknowledge our sin and confess it, the Lord will be the one who covers our sin and forgives it (32:1). We are not blessed because we have it all together. The reason we can be called the ones who are blessed is because we are forgiven by the Lord. That is why we must go to the Lord in prayer. (32:6). The godly are not those who pretend to be perfect but are the ones who know they need the Lord’s provision and salvation. They look for Him and find Him. The Lord delivers them and forgives them of their sin. He teaches them in the way they should go and gives them counsel (32:8–9). In other words, true confession is not to be done with mere words, but actions are to follow. When we confess our sins, we are not merely saying, “I’m sorry” but we confess with the intention of turning from that sin.

The Blessing is Found in Trusting

When we turn from that sin, we are turning to something, or Someone, else. We turn to the LORD (32:10). Confession of sin and trusting in God go hand-in-hand. Truly, the reason we can confess our sins and find forgiveness is because we trust in the LORD, namely Jesus who lived, died, and rose again for us! It is because of the person and work of Jesus Christ that God the Father can say we are forgiven. The blessing of forgiveness is found in confessing sin and trusting in Christ. For the one who continues to conceal and cover their sin, they will find sorrow (32:10). For the one who confesses their sin and looks to God, they will find gladness and find joy (32:11). The question you need to ask is: which person are you? There is great blessing in being forgiven!

Reflection Questions:

  • When you have unconfessed sin in your life, how does it affect your spiritual life? Can you resonate with David in verses 3-4?
  • Check your heart: are there any unconfessed sins in your life right now you need to repent of and rely on Christ to forgive?
  • Have you ever confessed a sin you had tried to cover and conceal? How did it feel to confess it and trust in the Lord for His forgiveness?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis week’s devotional was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Two Ways of Life (Psalm 1)

ww_psalmsRoads are an interesting thing. Up until the second year of my undergraduate education, I refused to take the interstate on my way to school. I don’t know if it was because of fear of traffic or something else. Those days are gone, though. I have driven on the interstate numerous times and am much more comfortable driving. Because I have taken this step, I have experienced driving on different types of roads, whether it be a two-way street or a 3-lane in one direction. I have found that people think the same way about life. They think that life’s destination can be found driving on any type of road. Many see life as a two-way street, even. I am convinced, however, that life is a one-way street. Sure, you can go two ways on a one-way street, but one of those ways is illegal and will not end well. Psalm 1 uses similar imagery. In Psalm 1, the godly, or right, way of life is contrasted with the ungodly, or wrong, way of life.

The Godly Way of Life (vv. 1-3)

The godly way of life, as it is detailed in verses 1-3, makes it plain that the relationships we partake in reveal which way we are going. The godly person does not commune with the ungodly. That is, they do not follow the ungodly and fall into a progression of a sinful lifestyle. Rather, what characterizes the godly way of life is their delight in meditating on the Word of God. Notice this study, meditation, and reflection on God’s Word is not done out of routine but out of joy. They delight in His Word. They are daily fed on the Word. For direction, they go to the Word of God. As a result, the godly way of life produces a life of fruitfulness, a life that “yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (verse 3).

The Ungodly Way of Life (vv. 4-5)

The ungodly way of life produces just the opposite. Those headed on this way do not produce fruit “but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (verse 4). The psalmist uses this analogy of chaff to stress the point of fruitlessness. Chaff was separated from the grain and usually blew away because it was lighter than the grain. It had no root. So, the wicked and ungodly are, as Derek Kidner says, “rootless, weightless, and useless”. Their end is destruction because they will not be able to stand right before God on the day of judgment and they will perish (verses 5-6).

The Way of Life

But what about the godly? What happens to them? Psalm 1:6 tells us God knows them. He has a relationship with them. They will not perish but will be with the Lord. But who are these godly people? To your surprise, when Psalm 1 talks about the godly, or the righteous, the psalmist is not talking about us. Yes, if we are Christians we should have a delight for His Word, but we do not always. We still fall short (Romans 3:23). It is only when we understand that Jesus is the ultimate righteous man, the one Psalm 1 describes, that we can ever think about living out such a life. 1 Peter 3:18 reminds us that Christ suffered once for sins. He was the righteous dying for the unrighteous, so that we could be reconciled to God. It is only when we understand Jesus as the only Way (John 14:6) that we can live the righteous way, the godly way. We can only begin to live out this godly way of life when we have trusted in the Way of life.

My question to you is this: which road will you take? Life is a one-way street. Will you rebel against the truth and live your life in sin on your way to destruction? Or will you realize you need to turn around and head the right way? The only way to turn around is to repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and He will lead you by His Spirit along the godly way.

Reflection Questions:

  • Which road or way have you taken? In other words, what characterizes your life more: the godly way of life or the ungodly way of life?
  • How does understanding Jesus Christ as the Way inform our interpretation and application of this passage?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis week’s devotional was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Knowing We Have Eternal Life (1 John 5:13-21)

2016-week-52I enjoy asking trick questions. When I know have stumped somebody and they have given the answer I was expecting them to, I ask, “Are you sure about that?” Unfortunately, for some Christians, they view the assurance of salvation this way. They find themselves asking on nearly a daily basis, “Am I sure I am saved? Am I sure am a Christian?” The problem they typically find themselves in is they do not feel they are saved. The basis for assurance of salvation, though, does not rest on feelings. It rest upon the truth of God’s Word.

The Apostle John begins the last section of his letter by giving the purpose statement for the section and for the whole book: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know you have eternal life” (5:13). The reason John has said the things he has is because he wants to give genuine followers of Christ assurance of their salvation. Notice where he goes next to explain where these Christians can place their confidence in for their salvation. He says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked him” (5:14–15). The grounds in a Christian’s assurance of salvation does not rest upon feelings but upon the will of God. As Christians, we know God answers prayers that are in accordance with His will. We know His will by knowing His Word. We see in His Word that for those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior they will be saved. Therefore, if you have honestly dealt with your sins, confessing and repenting of them, and you have surrendered your life to Christ, you can be assured you are in Christ.

If someone professes with their mouth they have confessed and repented of their sin and yet their life looks no different, then there is great cause for concern. The markers of faith in 1 John are meant to bring assurance to true Christians but they also expose those deceived as false converts. Their way of life reveals their true identity. The Apostle John puts it this way: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (5:18). For the person who professes to know God but lives a lifestyle of unrepentant sin, they are revealed as children of the evil. They follow the ways of Satan, giving into their fleshly desires and indulging in a lifestyle of lies and sin. Their result is death. Their total and willful rejection of the gospel and Christ, signified by a lack of repentance and faith, is the sin that leads to death. To deny a need for Christ is to deny one has sinned. For those who admit they have sinned and need a Savior, there is the hope of eternal life. The world lies in the power and lies of the evil one but those who know God find the truth and know God is greater. God in Christ has given us understanding and He entrusts to us the truth. As Christians, we are in Christ who is the truth and we keep ourselves from idols, the false gods which offer life but bring death. Only in knowing Christ do we have eternal life.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is it important to know we are sinners who need a Savior?
  • As Christians, what do we often base our assurance of salvation on? How has 1 John equipped you in understanding the assurance of salvation?

Whoever Has the Son Has Life (1 John 5:6-12)

2016-week-51Christmas can be a bittersweet season. With family gatherings, the reminder of loved ones who have passed seem to surface. The sting of death flares up in our thoughts and minds. The great truth is it does not have to be this way. Death does not have to override what has been called the season of joy. We may reflect during the Christmas season on the lives of those who have died but our hope is in the One who can give us life, abundantly and eternally. We can rest in this hope and find this joy by looking to and trusting in the Son of God. The Apostle John declares, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (5:12). When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the One who is Life and came to give His life.

In His life, Jesus Christ was revealed as the anointed Son and as the substitutionary sacrifice. At His baptism, we see He came by water. His Father anointed Him when in Matthew 3:17, “This is my beloved Son, I take delight in Him.” Jesus was not a mere man who lived a good life. Jesus was and is God the Son and God the Father sent Him to live a sinless life, the life we could not live. The Father was pleased and delighted in the Son.

At the cross, we see Jesus came by the blood. He died the death we all as sinners deserved for our rebellion against God. Because He took our sins upon Himself we can stand before God in His righteousness. His sacrifice was in our place, what we mean by substitutionary, and it was what gave us life. Because of the sacrifice of Christ, death does not have the final word. Even when we grieve over those who have died, if the person has repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus Christ, then we have a sure hope they have received eternal life and are with the Lord.

How can we know these things are so? John tells us we can know because it is God who testifies: “And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (5:6c–8). What we have to place our hope in is not some mere testimony of what men have conjured up. Instead, we know about the life and death of Jesus Christ because God has testified to us about it. More than that, as those who place their faith in the testimony of God we are born of God. Those who refuse to accept the testimony of God as truth will prove themselves to be liars as they falsely accuse God as a liar (5:10). Their disbelief in the testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ confirms their heart against God and their rebellion leading to death. Because they do not believe or trust in Jesus Christ, they will face eternal death. Only those who place their faith in Jesus Christ will receive eternal life because eternal life is in the Son (5:11).

One of the central themes in 1 John has been based on the person of Jesus Christ. The life of Jesus Christ is not a matter to be celebrated only when the Christmas season comes around. Rather, everyday should be a celebration of His life and the life He has given us. When we deal with the loss of loved ones, we can turn to Christ and remember He died for our sins so that we could be made alive with God. For those who are in the Son, there is life.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is the baptism of Christ and the cross of Christ important in understanding the person and work of Christ?
  • How does knowing Jesus Christ came to give His life to give us life encourage you in the season you are in?

Test of Our Faith (1 John 5:1-5)

2016-week-50I had no problem reading textbooks and writing papers. As a student, the matter that concerned me was always the quizzes and tests. You had to know what to prepare for and even then there was no guarantee the studying of the material would result in acing the exam. Looking back, I do understand the benefits of taking a test. A test can be an indicator of one’s comprehension of the material. Similarly, Christians can take a test to evaluate if they are truly saved. Just as a test reveals whether someone has studied the material or not, taking a spiritual test is examining the evidence to evaluate whether someone who professes faith is a genuine Christian. What is the content on this test? The content is believing the essentials of our faith and living a particular way of life.

A genuine Christian is one who believes Jesus is the Christ and who loves the children of God as an overflow of their love for God. The order of this test is a minor issue either. On a test, sometimes I would start with the last question and work backward. On this test of faith, we cannot work backward. We must begin with discussing our belief. On this exam, we see “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (5:1). The test does not merely state the evidence of our faith as belief in general. The test of our faith is centered on our belief of Jesus Christ. Our belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of our sins is the means by which we are born again by the grace of God. We cannot earn our salvation. To be born of God means God opens our eyes and hearts to what Christ has done in His sinless life, His substitutionary death, and His life-giving resurrection so that we respond in repentance of our sins and trust in Jesus as the Christ who has saved us and who is Lord over us. How do we know we have responded this way and have been born of God? Another section of the test informs us, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (5:4–5). An indicator we have been born of God is that we are not defeated by the hostility of the world and we do not follow the course and ways of the world. Evidence we are Christians is we turn from following the world and we follow Christ. Our faith in Christ is what equips us to persevere and to overcome the world.

As those who have put their faith in Jesus as the Son of God and who have been saved, their way of life is embedded with a life of love. Christians are those who love God, evidenced by their desire to keep His commandments (5:2–3). A Christian’s love for God is extended into love for one another. When we love God, we desire to keep His commandments by loving others in the family of God. In all of this, we ought not see the commandments of God as burdensome but as something that will bring joy to their relationship with God.

As we know the content of this test, our belief in Jesus Christ and our love for God and for one another, we will be able to examine our beliefs and lives to see if we are those saved by the grace of God in Christ. If we do, we can be assured we are the children of God who have been born of God.

Reflection Questions:

  • The first section of the exam on the test of faith is our belief in Jesus as the Christ. What do you believe about Jesus Christ?
  • The second section of the exam on the test of faith deals with our love and obedience for God leading to our love for another. How have you shown your love to those who are the children of God?

An Abiding Love (1 John 4:12-21)

2016-week-49One of the markers of genuine Christianity is love. As we have seen throughout John’s letter, love is the primary way of life God has called them to live. In 1 John 4:7–11 we saw the love of God was made manifest in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The love of God was seen clearly in the person of Jesus Christ. Since Christ has returned to the right hand of God the Father, His physical presence is no longer on the earth with us. How can we be sure He calls us His children? The simple answer is trusting in Him by what His Word says. More specifically, John tells us, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (4:12). We can know God abides in us by our loving one another. Our loving one another achieves the goal of God’s love because we have extended such love to each other. The way in which God abides in us as we abide in Him is through the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we have received the Holy Spirit who is a guarantee of our eternal inheritance in Christ (see Ephesians 1:13–14). How do we know we have received the Holy Spirit? The Apostle John explains, “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” (4:14–15). To state it succinctly, those who confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world, evidenced by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, are Christians. If we know the love God has for us and believe in the God who is love, then we can be assured we abide in God and God abides in us (4:16). There is no reason to fear on the day of judgment (4:18). Because we are saved by the righteousness of Christ, we can have confidence before God as we abide in Christ (4:17). Our standing before God on the day of judgment will not be based on your good works but on whether you trusted in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Did you believe Jesus was truly God in the flesh and that He took your sin upon Himself on the cross to reconcile you with the Father? Did you respond to His holy-love by repenting of your sin and placing your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior? If you are one who abides in God, your answer to those two questions should be a resounding “Yes!” Still, the evidence you abide in God centers on love. This abiding love finds its source and foundation in God. “We love because he first loved us” (4:19). We can only know love because God has loved us. We know love when the love God has given to us we extend to others. To not extend love is to prove ourselves as liars and our salvation as false. The last couple of verses of 1 John 4 put it this way, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (4:20–21). One who has been saved by the love of God is one who extends the love of God to others. To live any other way is to live a lie. Christians are commanded to love one another as they are motivated by the love of God in the gospel and are moved along by the power of the Holy Spirit. To love God in heaven whom you cannot see now is evidenced by your love for people around you whom you can see. When you display such love, you will know God abides in you and you abide in Him.

Reflection Questions:

  • How is the love of God significant in our love for one another?
  • What are practical ways we find in Scripture where we are called to love one another? How can you apply that in your life this week?