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.

God is Good (Psalm 100)

ww_psalmsA thankful spirit doesn’t come naturally, does it? We obviously find it easy to thank God when we are experiencing a shower of blessings in our lives, but quite a bit harder to be thankful when difficulties and disappointments crowd in. No matter which situation we currently find ourselves in, we need to stop and simply remind ourselves who He is and what He is like.

As a child I remember the extent of my thankfulness to God was basically confined to our dinnertime prayer which I remember well, “God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.” That was certainly a good start for a little kid, but far removed from the thankfulness displayed in Psalm 100! A glad and thankful spirit should become an integral part of our daily walk and not just confined to a November holiday or a child’s dinner time prayer.

I Thessalonians 5:8 is a familiar verse stenciled in on my bedroom wall, “In everything give thanks …” If only this verse would magically seep into my soul as I sleep! Psalm 100 indicates two things easily remembered which we can be thankful for no matter what our situation. First, we can always simply be thankful that the Lord is God! We are not on the wrong track. We are not thanking a God who is not even there. We have found the Truth that can be found nowhere else! He is the only true God, and we have the privilege of knowing Him.

Not only is our God the true God, He is also good! He is the Good Shepherd who continually watches over the sheep of His pasture, infinitely more than any good shepherd would do. He is working all of the events of our lives together for a good purpose – for His own glory and our ultimate good. Psalm 103 follows closely behind Psalm 100 and reminds us of some of the benefits we enjoy from His goodness: He forgives all our iniquities, and crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies, just to name a few!

Every day we should remember and be glad that, no matter what the circumstances, our Lord is God…and that He is good!

Reflection Questions:

  • Regardless of our circumstances, how can we find ourselves expressing thankfulness to God?
  • How have you seen the goodness of God in your life lately? Allow your experience to be expressed by thanking God for His work.

tnt_paschallThis week’s devotional was written by Tom Paschall. Tom and his wife, Theresa, have been married almost 34 years and have 3 married children and 3 grandchildren so far. Their youngest son Zach lives at home along with their lively dog Snickers and not so lively 25+ year old turtle named Chip. Tom works in the IT area at UnitedHealthCare and currently serves as a Deacon at Bethesda Baptist Church in Brownsburg, Indiana.

A Heart of Praise (Psalm 145)

ww_psalmsHow often do you demonstrate a heart of praise? In this culture it can be challenging to have an attitude of praise because we take what we have for granted. We can become so bogged down by selfishness and pride that we lose sight of the blessings that God has given us. We need to be less focused on what we do not have and more on who God is and what He has done for us.

The word ‘psalm’ means a song or praise, yet Psalm 145 is the only psalm that has the title ‘A Song of Praise.’ The author of this psalm is David, and he is focusing his attention solely on praising God. Psalm 145 begins with him praising God. “1I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” When David speaks of blessing and praising God’s name forever and ever, he is not only thinking about doing it here on earth but also when he gets to heaven. Every single day, David is making it his aim to praise God.

In the next verses, we see that David praises God for His mighty acts and gracious character.  4One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”

David never loses sight of what is to come after his life here on earth. There is hope for the believer because of God’s everlasting kingdom. All who are saved will be with God for the rest of eternity, and there will be no more death, pain, sorrow, or tears (Rev. 21:4). God’s everlasting kingdom is something to look forward to and is something that David kept in mind. 10All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, 12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. 14 The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

David concludes this psalm by showing that the Lord cares for His people, and his resolve is for all mankind to praise the Lord forever. 17The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. 18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. 20 The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. 21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.”

“Praising God should be our daily work, for God is every day blessing us. His greatness and goodness cannot be comprehended, and when we have said what we can in praising Him, there is more to be said.”[1] We can only merely scratch the surface of all of the blessings God has given us. There is no end in sight to God’s greatness being fully discovered. From now through all eternity, we will not be able to fully comprehend it. It is important that we do not take God and what He has done for granted, but instead begin to cultivate a heart of praise.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do I have a heart of praise or a heart of pride?
  • Do I praise God every day for the blessings He has given me?
  • Do I praise God every day for who He is and what He has done?

[1] Keith Brooks, Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 140.

ethan_thomasThis week’s devotional was written by Ethan Thomas. Ethan is a graduate of Crossroads Bible College, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biblical Counseling as well as in Management and Ethics. He enjoys serving in his local church. Most of all, he is happily married to his wife, Grace.

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.

A Mighty Fortress is Our God (Psalm 46)

ww_psalmsA while back I came home exhausted after a full day of ministry. I was immersed in personal study, administrative work, meetings, and teaching. That was the easy part. Once the work day was over I spent another three hours counseling various individuals about a whole host of issues that were plaguing their lives. One can imagine, when I got home just before 9:00 p.m., that I was spent.

But I wasn’t just tired physically. I was tired spiritually and emotionally. The burdens of the day proved to be too much for me, and I knew I needed a kind of rest that my warm bed couldn’t provide. So, instead of going home and sitting in my recliner to watch the playoffs to get my mind off things, I opened the Bible and read these words from our Lord: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). It was the refreshment my soul needed. After a day of hard work and carrying the burdens of others, I needed to hear that. “God is our refuge and strength.”

Now, how about you? Have you ever been so physically tired that your body wants rest but your mind is so burdened that you cannot sleep? See, this was one of those days for me. Sleep wasn’t going to be enough. I needed rest for my soul. Even more than that, my heart needed a refuge from the burdens of the day.

A refuge is a place where small, frail people like you and me can find shelter. Think of a fierce army pursuing you in the open field, and there is nowhere to run. Their chariots are blazing, their bows are bent, and their swords are unsheathed. Your only hope is to run and hide in the King’s castle. Once you’re in, the gates shut and lock you away. Inside you find rest, safety, and refreshment from your weary travails. The enemy cannot touch you here because you are protected by the King’s army and the stronghold of His fortress.

But, it is not as if you go in and you’re locked away in a room by yourself while the armies defeat your foes. No, God is “a very present help in our trouble.” Once inside, the King Himself comes to comfort you and provide rest for your weary body. He tends to your afflictions and pours the oils of His grace and mercy over your wounds. In this moment it doesn’t matter what troubles the day presented you with, because you are secure within the refuge of your God. He is your strength. He is your helper.

In fact, the Psalmist feels so safe in the Lord’s refuge that he declares, “We will not fear though the Earth gives way” (46:2a). No matter what circumstances surround you, if you are enveloped in the love and strength of God, you will remain safe, even if the foundations of the earth itself were to crumble.

Dear Christian, preach these truths to your soul during times of trouble. When the burdens of the day prove to be too much, remind your heart that, “God is our refuge and strength.”  When the troubles of life pursue you like a fierce army in the midst of battle, hide yourself within the fortress of our God who “is a very present help in trouble.”

Reflection Questions:

  • Where do you turn in times of trouble and when you need rest and refreshment?
  • How will you prepare to preach these truths to your soul during the next season of trials and trouble in your life?

sutton_famThis week’s devotional was written by EBG Contributing Writer Brandon Sutton. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and as the Director of the Grace House, a Christ-centered men’s recovery home. He is the grateful husband of Sherrie and the proud father of Emma.

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?