Friday, November 28, 2014


Jude 3, “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

The title for this epistle is taken from the name of the author.  Jude was brother of James and Jesus (Cf. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).  Jude wrote to warn of those who had “crept in unnoticed” into the church to promulgate their false teachings (Cf. Jude 4).  These false teachers were “perverting the grace of our God into sensuality” and denying “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).  For this reason it was especially important for those who shared in a “common salvation” to contend for the faith.

The word “contend” translates a Greek term meaning to struggle.  It speaks of the intense effort that would be extended in a wrestling match (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25).  The verb is in the present tense implying a continuous action.  The need to contend arises because a battle for truth exists.  It has existed in this world since the fall and it continues to this day.  Believers are as Christian soldiers enlisted to contend for truth against an onslaught of falsehood.  None can opt-out of this battle because to not contend is to yield ground to the enemy is who ever-working to deceive and destroy. 

“The faith” refers not to faith in the subjective sense, but rather the body of truth on which the church is founded (Cf. Ephesians 2:19-20; 4:4-6).  Though there is sometimes disagreement on periphery matters, there exists to this day a body of core doctrinal truths to which the true church of God adheres.  These truths are essential both to the salvation of souls and the spiritual growth and well-being of the church.  The “church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth” forsakes its privileged role and effectiveness in the world if it fails to content for truth (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).

Jude stressed that this faith has been delivered to the church “once for all” (Jude 3).  It is not subject to revision or change.  False teachers may tout their supposed revelations, but if what they say doesn’t measure up to Scripture then it should be quickly and fully rejected as false (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21).  God has closed the book on His revelation to man (Cf. Revelation 22:18-19).  In contending for the faith, the believer in Christ needs to be ever vigilant to sift what he hears through a “what-does-the-Bible-say” filter.

From its beginning and to this day the church has had those who have contended for the faith.  Jude himself would have witnessed many such examples.  Peter suffered much in contending for the faith.  Paul did too.  Foxes Book of Martyrs is replete with such stories.  I much appreciate the story of John Frith.  He died contending for the truth that a man is justified by faith alone when he refused to recant of his opposition to the false doctrine of transubstantiationism (the false doctrine that bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the very body and blood of Christ).  Here’s his story: “England in the 1530s was a dangerous place for Protestants.  God has raised up men to translate the Bible and preach it to the people, but there were many, including King Henry VIII, who stood in vicious opposition to their efforts.  Henry did not hesitate to punish with death those who could no longer be regarded to be loyal Catholics.  John Frith had studied at Oxford.  He was saved and became one of England’s greatest evangelical scholars.  He fled to Europe where he struggled to survive in a hostile situation.  In August 1532 he made the decision to return to England to continue his work in the reformation, knowing full well that his capture would mean certain death.  The fire in his heart to contend for the faith in sharing the gospel compelled him to go.  King Henry’s servant, Sir Thomas More, hunted for Frith, hoping both to destroy him and reach his greatest enemy, William Tyndale.  Frith was aware of the dangers that he faced and attempted to keep a low profile.  But in October 1532, just as Frith was about to board a ship to be with Tyndale, he was betrayed and taken by agents of Thomas More.  Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he was subjected to intense pressure from Catholic theologians and bishops to abandon his gospel faith.  While imprisoned, for approximately eight months, Frith penned his views on Communion, fully knowing that they would, in his own words, be used "to purchase me most cruel death."  Frith was tried before many examiners and bishops who produced Frith’s own writings as evidence for his supposed heretical views. He was sentenced to death by fire and offered a pardon if he answered positively to two questions: Do you believe in purgatory, and do you believe in transubstantiation? He replied that neither purgatory nor transubstantiation could be proven by Holy Scriptures, and thus was condemned as a heretic and was burned at the stake on 4 July 1533 at Smithfield, London.  He died, but in contending for the faith he ignited and bolstered the faith of others (Cf. Philippians 1:12-14).  God would have us, His children, to contend for His truth.  People contend for all sorts of lesser causes, but to contend for the faith is to fight the good fight (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:7).

Thursday, November 27, 2014


3 John 9-10, “I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us.  And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.”

3 John was a personal letter from the Apostle John to his beloved friend Gaius (Cf. 3 John 1).  In it he expressed his joy in hearing of Gaius’ faithfulness (3 John 1-4), and for his support for traveling “fellow workers” (3 John 5-8).  He also addressed his concern regarding Diotrephes, a man who was working against John and hindering the progress of the gospel (3 John 9-10).

Diotrephes had a pride problem.  He liked to “put himself first” (3 John 9).  That problem lay at the root of his poor and ungodly decisions.  He like to “put himself first” as did the devil in his attempt to usurp the place of God (Cf. Isaiah 14:13).  He liked to put himself first though all that “is in the world,” including “the pride of life,” “is not from the Father (Cf. 1 John 2:16).  He like to put himself first though Jesus taught otherwise: “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).  He like to put himself first, though Jesus Himself had set a contrary example in clothing Himself with humility and washing the disciples feet (Cf. John 13:3-17).  He liked to put himself first, though such behavior is inconsistent to the true nature of God’s kind of love (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5).  He liked to put himself first though God’s shepherds are to be “not domineering over those in (their) charge” (1 Peter 5:3).  He liked to put himself first, as do too many leaders (Cf. Philippians 2:21).  He liked to put himself first and thereby was met with God’s opposition (Cf. Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).  Andrew Murray has said of pride: “Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue.  And so pride, or loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil.”

In his prideful ignorance Diotrephes refused to acknowledge the authority of the Apostle John.  The disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20) was unloved and disregarded by Diotrephes.  John had witnessed the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  He had walked with Jesus and had been sent out by Him.  The elderly apostle had faithfully served His Lord for some six decades.  He was there with Peter when the church was borne.  In the years since he had suffered much persecution and hardship for the sake of the gospel.  He had been mightily used by God in the salvation of souls and the planting of churches.  As a writer of inspired Scriptures, he was a man who “spoke for God as (he was) carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).  He possessed more experience in ministry than any other person alive on the planet at that time, but Diotrephes refused to acknowledge his authority and even “talked wicked nonsense” against him (3 John 9). 

Pridefully confused Diotrephes ruled over his fiefdom with an iron will.  Contrary to Gaius’ good example of welcoming and supporting strangers (Cf. 3 John 5-8), Diotrephes refused to welcome the brothers (Cf. 3 John 10).  Diotrephes had more interest in furthering and strengthening his own position than furthering the gospel.  If others ventured to show hospitality to “the brothers,” Diotrephes “put them out of the church” (3 John 10).  Any threat to his rule was dealt with harshly, in an unloving and unwarranted manner.

The “Apostle of Love” dealt forthrightly with the problem.  Diotrephes’ arrogance and unbiblical manner were a contradiction, in word and deed, to the message of the gospel.  He was a bad leader and a bad example.  In his pride and arrogance he was a divisive figure and a detriment to the cause of Christ.  He liked to be first, and deemed himself important, but he was a small man in the sight of God.  Diotrephes put himself first, but he had things turned upside down.  According to God’s measure, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  In his desire to be first Diotrephes gained nothing but a lasting legacy of a bad example that we should all be careful to avoid.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


2 John 7-11, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.  Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.  Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.  Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.  Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

John, who had much to say about the need to “love one another” (Cf. 2 John 5-6), had tough words for those who were walking and teaching contrary to the truth.  He called them deceivers (2 John 7).  He warned his recipients to watch themselves lest they lose, through acceptance of the false teaching, what they had worked for (2 John 8).  He indicted the false teachers for straying from the truth (2 John 9).  Hospitality was considered to be a great virtue in John’s day, but John counseled the recipients of his epistle to not receive the false teachers into their homes or even give them a greeting (2 John 10-11).  Albert Barnes commented on this, “The friends of truth and piety we should receive cordially to our dwellings, and should account ourselves honored by their presence (Psalms 101:6-7), strangers we should not forget to entertain, for thereby we may entertain angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2), but the open advocate of what we regard as dangerous error, we are not to receive in any such sense or way as to have our treatment of him fairly construed as patronizing his errors, or commending him as a teacher to the favorable regards of our fellow-men….In all this there is no breach of charity, and no want of true love, for we are to love the truth more than we are the persons of men.”

In this postmodern day a counterfeit version of “love” is much loved, but truth is as an orphan.  In the name of this contemporarily fashionable kind of love the modern church has broadened its umbrella to encompass all kinds of divergent beliefs and practices.   But love and truth are inseparable twins.  If they are to be adopted by us, we must take them both.  One cannot exist—at least in a God-defined sense—apart from the other.  Believers are to be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).  To speak the truth apart from love is to speak as “a noisy gong or clanging symbol” (1 Corinthians 13:1; i.e. in a harsh and annoying manner).  To attempt to love apart from truth is to love in mere human terms, inconsistent to God’s definition and objectives. Love needs to be practiced “with knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). Jesus is the perfect example to us.  He embodied truth and love, walked in both, and responded to others accordingly (Cf. John 1:17). 

The Intervarsity Press Commentary offers this insight, “We would do well to take note of the corporate focus of the Elder's concern, for he is particularly worried lest the false teachers be granted an opening to teach and propagate their doctrine within the church. It is the church's responsibility to teach people and to nurture them in faith, righteousness and love. As a church, it must draw the lines that exclude teaching and practice it deems out of harmony with the revelation of the Scripture. It has this right and responsibility. To be sure, in the effort to guard truth with zeal, some churches draw the lines too soon and too narrowly. But in the effort to exhibit Christian charity and tolerance, some churches refuse to draw the line at all. The continuing challenge to the church is to "speak the truth in love." Unfortunately, as one wag has said, this generally leads to a lot of speaking, little truth and even less love!”

John MacArthur has likewise commented on this, “John’s teaching stands in direct antithesis to the frequent cry for ecumenism and Christian unity among believers.  Love and truth are inseparable in Christianity.  Truth must always guide the exercise of love (Ephesians 4:5).  Love must stand the test of truth.  The main lesson of John’s second letter is that truth determines the bounds of love and, as a consequence, the bounds of unity.  Therefore, truth must exist before love can unite, for truth generates love (1 Peter 1:22).  When someone compromises the truth, true Christian love and unity are destroyed.  Only shallow sentimentalism exists where truth is not the foundation of unity.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TO KNOW THAT YOU KNOW (1 John Chapter 5)

1 John 5:13, “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.”

John’s gospel and first epistle both include a purpose statement.  He wrote his gospel account, recounting the signs done by Jesus, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).  He wrote his first epistle to those who have believed that they “may know that (they) have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).  His purpose in writing this epistle was that the believer would have assurance with respect to his salvation.

The doctrines of security and assurance are complimentary.  The believer is one who “has passed out of death into life” (1 John 3:14; Cf. 1 John 5:24).  He is secure in that objective reality whether aware of the truth of it or not.  Assurance has to do with one’s confident realization of his security.  Assurance is a crucial doctrine because it touches on other important aspects of the Christian’s life.  The assured Christian is a joyful and serving Christian.

With respect to these objective and subjective matters, it is possible for a person to live in one of four different states: saved and assured; saved and not assured; not saved and falsely assured; not saved and not assured.  Of these four the state that is most desirous is the first.  God wants us to be saved (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:4) and to have assurance of our salvation (Cf. 1 John 5:13).  Of the four, the third situation is least desirous.  It is possible for a person to not be saved, but to think—on the basis of some mistaken assumption—that they are (Cf. Matthew 7:21-23).

The Holy Spirit has a ministry of granting assurance to the believer (Cf. 1 John 5:10, 4:13).  “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).  His presence in one’s life is manifested in various ways.  And while there are varying degrees of spiritual maturity (Cf. 1 John 1:12-14; Philippians 3:12) and it is possible for a believer to behave “in human ways” (1 Corinthians 3:3), the Spirit of God will inevitably work to manifest His presence in the life of the child of God.

The true believer is one who loves the truth.  “God is light” (1 John 1:5).  The believer is one walks “in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7).  “Whoever knows God listens” to the truth (Cf. 1 John 4:6).  Jesus said it this way: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, 16).  The true believer is one who has been born again through the truth to a love for truth (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23, 2:2).  By the Spirit the believer both understands and values truth (Cf. 1 John 2:27).

The true believer is one who loves righteousness.  Though aware of his sin (Cf. 1 John 1:8-10; Romans 7:24), he is not one who “makes a practice of sinning” (Cf. 1 John 3:4-10; 5:18).  Instead he “practices righteousness” (Cf. 1 John 2:29, 3:7), and endeavors to keep “his commandments (Cf. 1 John 2:3-4).  As previously stated, it is not that he never sins, but by the Spirit his response to sin is not what it once was and is not according to the world’s way of thinking and living (Cf. 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 1:28-32; Galatians 5:19-21).

The true believer is one who loves the brethren.  This is a main theme in John’s epistle.  “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  “Love is from” Him (Cf. 1 John 4:7).  Those who have “been born of God” are Spirit-led and empowered to love others with His kind of love (Cf. 1 John 4:7).  “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers” (1 John 3:14).  If no desire for fellowship exists, and there is no capacity to love “in deed and in truth” and no resulting correspondence between the walk of Jesus and our own (Cf. 1 John 2:6, 3:16), then there is good reason to be concerned as to one’s spiritual condition.

1 John 3:10 summarizes the matter this way: “By this it is evident (NASB, “obvious”) who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”  We are not saved by doing these things—salvation is to “those who believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23)—but our identity as children of God is confirmed to us as we are Spirit-led and empowered to do them.  That is how we can know (i.e. have assurance) that we know Him.

Monday, November 24, 2014

GREATER THAN (1 John Chapter 4)

1 John 4:4, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

In math the greater than symbol, “>”, is used to show that one or more numbers is larger or greater than a given value.  In this verse we have a spiritual “greater than” situation.  Two separate persons are referred to: 1) “He who is in you;” and 2) “he who is in the world.”  The One who is in the believer is greater than the one who is in the world.

“He who is in the world” is powerful and evil.  He exercises dominion through “rulers,” “authorities,” and “the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12).  He “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  He deceives (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3), tempts (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:5), and accuses (Cf. Revelation 12:10).  He has schemes (Cf. Ephesians 6:11) and designs (Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:11) through which he exercises his evil plans.  “For still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe—his craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal” (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”; Martin Luther).

Though he represents a great evil in this world—one that should not be underestimated--the One indwelling the believer is far greater.  The devil is powerful, but God is omnipotent.  The devil goes “to and fro on the earth,” but God is omnipresent.  The “father of lies” schemes against us according to his limited knowledge, but God is omniscient.  God is sovereign over all, but the devil must first ask permission before he can do anything in the life of the child of God (Cf. Job 2:4-6).

Jesus cast out demons.  Blasphemously, the Pharisees claimed that He did so “by Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (Matthew 12:25).  In His response Jesus asked, “Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? (Matthew 12:29).  Jesus was able to cast out demons because He is greater than the “strong man”!  Indeed, through His death and resurrection He has worked “to destroy the one who has the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14).  Through the One “who loved us” we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).  No lesser entity or power can work “to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).  “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).

“One night, John Paton and his wife—a missionary couple in the New Hebrides Islands—were awakened by chants outside their mission station.  Looking out, they saw that scores of hostile islanders had surrounded the station with torches, intent on burning the place down and killing the missionary couple.  The Patons got down on their knees and prayed throughout the night, asking God to deliver them.  The tense, dark hours passed, yet the islanders kept their distance.  Finally, around daybreak, the Patons looked out the window—and the hostile tribesmen were gone.  John Paton was baffled.  There seemed to be nothing preventing the islanders from attacking, yet no attack came.  Paton didn’t find out why the islanders left so mysteriously until a year later, when the chief of the tribe was won to Christ.  Remember the night-long siege of a year before, John Paton asked the newly converted chief why the tribesmen had departed instead of burning the mission station to the ground.  “We were afraid of the men who were with you,” the chief replied.  ‘What men?’ asked Paton.  ‘There were a hundred tall men around the mission house that night,’ said the chief.  ‘Their clothing shone with light, and they had swords in their hands.  We knew that they would never let us harm you, so we went back to our village.’” (Stedman, Ray; “Spiritual Warfare”; Discovery House Publishers; c1975).  John Paton’s devil-led foes represented a seemingly insurmountable force, but He is who is greater protected John and his wife from harm.

“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.  Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.  Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus, it is He—Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.  (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God;” Martin Luther).

Friday, November 21, 2014

JESUS LOVES ME (1 John Chapter 3)

1 John 3:16a, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”

How are we to define love?  The word is commonly used and in various ways.  Much of what is deemed “love” in our society bears little resemblance to the love spoken of in this verse.  We tend to think of love in human terms, but there is a love which transcends all others.  “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).  Love is an attribute of God (attribute=something true about God).  He doesn’t try to love, He is love.  The other “John 3:16” speaks to how God has so loved the world by sending His son.  This verse speaks to how Jesus has defined and demonstrated love in laying down His life for us.

Two terms are especially important here, “love” and “know.”  The term translated “love” in this verse is the Greek agape.  Vine’s definition of the term is especially helpful: “Agapao and the corresponding noun agape present ‘the characteristic word of Christianity, and since the Spirit of revelation has used it to express ideas previously unknown, inquiry into its use, whether in Greek literature or in the Septuagint, throws but little light upon its distinctive meaning in the NT…Love can only be known from the actions it prompts.  God’s love is seen in the gift of His Son…But obviously this is not the love of complacency, or affection, that is, it was not drawn out of any excellency in its objects, Rom. 5:8.  It was an exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself.”

Several things stand out in this definition.  First, the love defined here for us is a love demonstrated by “the divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself” (i.e. “for love is from God”; 1 John 4:7).  Secondly, the demonstration of this love was not sourced in “any excellency of its objects.”  He did not love us because we were in any measure deserving of His love (Cf. Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 1:21).  Thirdly, God’s love is clearly demonstrated in “the gift of His Son.”  True love has been defined for us in Christ and His willing sacrifice for us.  If we wonder as to what love looks like we should direct our thoughts and attention cross-ward.

The other especially important term here is “know.”  It translates the Greek ginosko.  The basic meaning of the term is “to be taking in knowledge, to come to know, recognize, or understand” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  The term implies “appreciation as well as knowledge,” a knowledge “obtained, not by mere intellectual activity, but by operation of the Holy Spirit consequent upon acceptance of Christ” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  In this sense the verse speaks to the abiding experiential knowledge of Christ’s love possessed by the believer in Christ.  Indeed, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Cf. Romans 5:8).  Love has not just been defined for us at the cross, on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice--and our faith in Him--the love of God has filled us up to overflowing (Cf. Ephesians 3:17).  We have experienced His love!

The song, “Jesus Loves Me,” was written by an American writer, Anna Bartlett Warner, who also authored several other books and poems that were then set to music.  Anna’s family home was quite close to the United States Military Academy at West Point, in New York, in the era just before the Civil War. Each Sunday Anna taught Bible classes to the cadets. Her remains are buried in the military cemetery, and her family home is now a museum on the grounds of the United States Military Academy.  “Jesus Loves Me” came from a poem written by Anna and her sisters in the 1860s for their sentimental and best-selling novel “Say and Seal.”  In a scene that brought many people to tears in the novel, a child lays dying and is comforted as the main character in the book recites the poem: “Jesus loves me!  This I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.”  Many soldiers on the battlegrounds during the civil war sang--and found spiritual comfort in--in the words of the hymn.  The cross both defines true love and bears testimony to the extent of it.  Jesus loves me!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WHAT NOT TO LOVE (1 John Chapter 2)

1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

The word “world” stands out in this passage, appearing six times in these three verses.  It translates the Greek kosmos which is used in the New Testament in reference to: the earth (Cf. John 21:25; Acts 17:24); the human race (Cf. John 3:16); or, “the present condition of human affairs in alienation from and opposition to God” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  The later usage is the sense here.

The believer is exhorted to “not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).  The term “love” translates the Greek agapao.  Kenneth Wuest has commented on its use here, "Agapao  speaks of a love which is awakened by a sense of value in an object which causes one to prize it.  It springs from an apprehension of the preciousness of an object. (Wuest, Kenneth; Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans).

Three reasons are given as to why we should not love the world: 1) what the world is; 2) what the world does; and 3) where the world is going.

The world stands in opposition to God, as James Montgomery Boice explains, "The idea here is of the world of men in rebellion against God and therefore characterized by all that is in opposition to God.  This is what we might call ‘the world system.’  It involves the world’s values, pleasures, pastimes, and aspirations.  John says of this world that the world lies in the grip of the evil one (1 John 5:19), that it rejected Jesus when He came (John 1:10), that it does not know Him (1 John 3:1), and consequently that it does not know and therefore also hates His followers (John 15:18, 19, 20, 21; 17:14).  It is in this sense that John speaks of the world in the passage before us. (Boice, James M.; The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary; Baker Books).

The world encourages us to misplace our love.  We should love God above all else and always endeavor to do His will, but that is contrary to the way of the world.  Indeed these last days are characterized by love for all the wrong things—self, money, pleasure (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-4).  The world system uses three primary devices to tempt and trap believers—“the desires of the flesh (pleasurable “doing” type sins; “fun”) and the desires of the eyes (profitable “having” type sins; “fortune”) and pride of life (positional “being” type sins; “fame”)” (1 John 2:16).  The devil used these three devices to deceive and tempt Eve.  She saw that the tree was “good for food (“the desires of the flesh”), and that it was a delight to the eyes (“the desires of the eyes”), and that tree was to be desired to make one wise (“pride of life”)” (Genesis 3:6).  Jesus was likewise tempted according to these three devices, but He did not sin (Cf. Matthew 4:1-10).  These devices appeal to sometimes appropriate desires, but tempt us to fulfill them in inappropriate ways--outside and contrary to the will of God.  For example, to satisfy one’s hunger is altogether appropriate, but gluttony is sin; sex within marriage is a gift from God, but is otherwise forbidden.  The believer is to preference the doing of the will of God to illegitimately attempting to fulfill his desires according to the world’s way of thinking.  Paul similarly exhorts the believer to “not be conformed to this world”, but instead to be transformed that he might know and do the will of God (Cf. Romans 12:2).

Though most suppose otherwise, the world and its desires is passing away (Cf. 1 John 2:17; 2 Peter 3:1-7).  One day the world system will come to an end.  All of the worldly pursuits of men will be exposed and expunged (Cf. 2 Peter 3:10).  John contrasts between two differing ways of life, living for the here and now vs. living for the then and there.  Living for the here and now (according to the way of the world) is a bad investment of one’s life because you can’t keep hold of the things that you are now living for.  But “whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).  Love for the world is a love that God hates (Cf. James 4:4).  It is far better to love God and endeavor to do His will. 

“O let me feel Thee near me, The world is ever near; I see the sights that dazzle, The tempting sounds I hear; My foes are ever near me, Around me and within; But, Jesus draw Thou nearer, And shield my soul from sin.” (O Jesus, I Have Promised; John E. Bode).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


1 John 1:1-4, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—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 was made manifest to us--that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

That a man named Jesus once lived on this earth is a matter of record acknowledged even by most secular historians.  Years are even numbered according to the “Year of Our Lord” (i.e. A.D. = Anno Domini = “Year of Our Lord”).  Who is Jesus?  Why did He come?  How can we know?  The Apostle John was an eyewitness of Jesus and wrote about what he saw and heard.

He wrote this epistle in part to refute some heretical teaching.  False teachers were distorting the truth concerning Christ’s person and work.  They claimed to have an exclusive and advanced understanding knowledge of the truth.  They professed faith in Jesus, but denied that He had actually come in the flesh (Cf. 1 John 2:22; 4:2).  They likewise denied the physical reality of HIs sufferings.  So John wrote to refute their heresies.

John was an eyewitness to the truth about Jesus.  Three times in three verses he spoke to that which he had “seen and heard” (Cf. 1 John 1:1-3).  To use the Apostle Peter’s language, he wasn’t following “cleverly devised myths” in what he was speaking about, he was an eyewitness to the truth (Cf. 2 Peter 1:16).  What did he see and hear?  He saw the incarnate Word, the “only Son from the Father,” dwelling among men (Cf. John 1:14).  He saw the Divine Son having come in human flesh.  He beheld His glory (Cf. John 1:14).

John saw the eternal life made manifest.  John saw that in Jesus.  Eternal life is not merely life unending, it is defined in terms of relationship with God.  John elsewhere wrote, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:4).  Jesus came for the express purpose of providing eternal life to the spiritually dead (Cf. Ephesians 2:1).  John’s gospel and epistles are replete with references to the life made manifest and availed to us by Jesus through his death and resurrection. 

  • “In him was life” (John 1:4). 
  • “He has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26). 
  • “I am the bread of life” (the terms “life” or “living” are used some 18X in this chapter” (John 6:35).
  • “Whoever believers in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38).
  • “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
  • “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
  • “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
  • “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).
  • “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one.  I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).
The Apostle John was an eyewitness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He devoted his life to proclaiming the truth that he himself had witnessed.  He willingly suffered persecution to defend and proclaim these truths (Cf. Revelation 1:9; Acts 4:20).  His fellow Apostles were willing to suffer martyrdom for that cause.  They yearned for others to receive the true life that Jesus alone can provide.  The Apostle John still testifies to us through God’s inspired word. He who died on the cross and rose from the dead is able to impart life to sin-dead souls (Cf. Ephesians 2:1).  That very same Jesus who called a rotting Lazarus from the grave, is able this very day to revive any man and bring him into an eternal fellowship with the Father and the Son (Cf. 1 John 1:3).  Life is in the Son.  Do you have the Son?  If so, you have the life—it is yours by His gracious provision (Cf. 1 John 5:11-12)!  If not, don’t delay in calling on Him.  He came that you might have life and have it abundantly (Cf. John 10:10).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

JUDGMENT DAY (2 Peter Chapter 3)

2 Peter 3:3-10, “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”

Mt. St. Helens was about to erupt.  Warnings were issued for people to leave the area, but Harry Truman refused to heed them.  A National Geographic article recounted the story of what happened to Harry: "Old man Harry Truman (83) built a cabin by Spirit Lake on the slopes of Mt. St. Helens some 53 years ago. All those years nature remained consistent. But then the mountain started to awaken. Residents were asked to leave. Warnings were given. Park guards came to the cabin to tell him it wasn't safe. TV and newspaper folks interviewed him. He said he could not live anywhere else. He was part of the mountain and the mountain was part of him. He laughed at and cursed all his visitors. Then on May 18, 1980 the mountain exploded and Harry Truman perished under hundreds of feet of volcanic ash."

Though people scoff and disregard the truth, Jesus Christ is coming again.  The word “scoff” translates a term which means “to play with, trifle with, deride, or mock.”  It is the same term that used to describe the cacophony of abuse directed towards Jesus by sinners as He hung upon the cross.  They mocked Him in His first coming (Cf. Matthew 27:29, 31, 39, 41) and they are even now mocking the promise of His return.

They scoff because “all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4).  John Piper has commented on their reasoning: “This is an amazingly modern argument for rejecting the supernatural, bodily Second Coming. It simply says, the laws of nature are constant and unchanging. The sun has come up and gone down, the seasons have followed each other, the tides have risen and fallen for thousands of years in perfect order. Therefore we must expect this constancy for the future, and any thought that the sky might be rolled up like a scroll and the earth purged with global, fiery judgment by the returning Christ is unimaginable and unwarranted. This is exactly the position of much modern science and there are hundreds of pastors and theologians in the churches and seminaries today who reject a physical second coming and future judgment for the same reason.”

According to their false reasoning—and for the sake of the pursuits of their lusts--they “deliberately overlook” obvious realities (Cf. 2 Peter 3:5).  They deny the truth that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth (Cf. 2 Peter 3:4; Romans 1:18-20).  They likewise purpose to forget that God has previously exercised judgment when the world “was deluged with water” (Cf. 2 Peter 3:6; Luke 17:26-30).

God has withheld His judgment.  And though it seems to have been for a very long time, “with the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Some suggest that we should be very concerned about global climate change and the effect it will have soon have on our planet.  They are right, it’s coming, but not in the way in which they suppose.  2 Peter 3:7, “But by the same word the heavens and earth now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”  God has issued a warning.  It’s left to us to take it seriously and respond accordingly (Cf. Matthew 3:7b, 2 Peter 3:11-13).

Monday, November 17, 2014

DIVINE RESCUE (2 Peter Chapter 2)

2 Peter 2:9, “…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.”

I saw in the news the other day that someone called 911 to order a pizza.  Dispatchers get those kinds of goofy calls from time to time, but for those in genuine distress the 911 dispatch system is a wonderful thing.  A dispatcher and trained rescue workers stand prepared to respond so that people in need might be delivered from a host of troubling circumstances.

There is no 911 to call when it comes to our spiritual troubles.  Instead it is God who stands on the other side of our pleas for help.  Trials are an inevitable part of life (Cf. John 16:33).  It’s good to know that God knows how to rescue the godly from trials. 

The Greek term translated rescue in this verse means “to draw or snatch to oneself and invariably refers to a snatching from danger, evil, or an enemy.”  The term emphasizes both the greatness of the peril and the power exercised in the deliverance from it.  The basic idea might be compared to a soldier responding to the cry of a wounded comrade in battle.  He runs to his aid and with exertion drags him away from the hands of the enemy. The verb, as it is used here, is in the present tense indicating a continual action.  The suffering Christian can rest assured both of God’s awareness of his plight and God’s ability to rescue him from it no matter how perilous it might be.

Peter draws on a couple of examples to illustrate his point.  God “rescued righteous Lot” (Cf. 2 Peter 2:7).  Lot was unaware of the plight that was soon to befall the city, but God sent two angels to deliver him (Cf. Genesis 19:1f).  His subsequent rescue is vividly described in Genesis 19:15-16: “As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.”  But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”  Noah was likewise “preserved” from the great flood of which he was previously unaware through the intervention of God (Cf. 2 Peter 2:5).  Peter’s argument in this passage is from the lesser premise to the greater.  If God was able to rescue Lot and preserve Noah, then He is able to rescue us also.

On the other side of the equation stands the fate of the ungodly and the false teachers Peter warned of.  God knows both how to rescue the godly and how “to the keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9; Cf. Jude 14-15).  “Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:3).  God will most assuredly accomplish His alternative purposes both with respect to the godly and the ungodly.

Charles Spurgeon once commented on God’s rescuing ability: “The godly are tempted and tried.  That is not true faith which is never put to the test.  But the godly are delivered out of their trials, and that not by chance, nor by secondary agencies, but by the LORD Himself.  He personally undertakes the office of delivering those who trust Him.  God loves the godly or godlike, and He makes a point of knowing where they are and how they fare.  Sometimes their way seems to be a labyrinth, and they cannot imagine how they are to escape from threatening danger.  What they do not know, their LORD knows.  He knows whom to deliver, and when to deliver, and how to deliver.  He delivers in the way which is most beneficial to the godly, most crushing to the tempter, and most glorifying to Himself.  We may leave the "how" with the LORD and be content to rejoice in the fact that He will, in some way or other, bring His own people through all the dangers, trials, and temptations for this mortal life to His own right hand in glory.  This day it is not for me to pry into my LORD's secrets but patiently to wait His time, knowing this, that though I know nothing, my heavenly Father knows.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

PAY ATTENTION (2 Peter Chapter 1)

2 Peter 1:16-21, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

It had been nearly four decades since Peter experienced what he wrote about here, but he well-remembered what took place.  His testimony regarding Christ’s transfiguration did not arise from “cleverly devised myths” (2 Peter 1:16).  Peter and his companions were “eyewitnesses of his majesty”, heard the “voice borne from heaven”, and were “with (Jesus) on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

We’ve not shared in Peter’s experience--in fact we’ve never seen Jesus and don’t see Him now (Cf. 1 Peter 1:8)—but we have “the prophetic word” to guide us and to that we would “do well to pay attention” (2 Peter 1:19).  Many in this postmodern day preference personal experience as a guide, but Peter directs us to something better—the objective truth revealed to us in God’s inspired Word (Cf. 1 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We are exhorted to “pay attention” to it as we navigate through this present darkness in eager anticipation of the dawn of Christ’s return.

The Greek Word translated “pay attention” was a nautical term meaning to hold a ship in a direction.  It is in the present tense and speaks to the need to keep holding one’s mind to the Word, as a ship might navigate in a dark stormy night by the glimmer of light from a distant lighthouse.  A GPS is an amazing device—by satellite it determines your position, within a few feet, anywhere on the planet. Give it a destination and it will give you audible instructions as to when to turn. No longer is there a need for maps or to stop and embarrassingly ask for directions. But a GPS has its limitations--It will do you no good to type in “heaven” as your destination—it doesn’t know the way. The best of earthbound navigational means are of no value or assistance when it comes to spiritual matters.  The hymn “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning” is based on a true story D. L. Moody once told.  Cleveland harbor was marked by two sets of lights.  A ship was headed into the harbor on a dark and stormy night.  They spotted the upper lights, but not the lower ones.  They needed both to successfully navigate the passage, but due to the ferocity of the storm they had no choice but to proceed.  The ship ultimately crashed into the rocks and few survived.  There is a need to pay attention to the Word lest we be led off course into treacherous waters (Cf. 2 Peter 2:1-3; Ephesians 4:14).  The hymn’s theme—“let the lower lights be burning”—speaks to the need for believers to uphold a light-bearing testimony in this dark world, but the hymn also illustrates the need we each have for God’s supreme “navigational aid.”

The Bible is elsewhere said to be a light to our feet and a lamp to our path (Cf. Psalm 119:105).  In darkness it is difficult to safely find one’s way apart from the provision of light from some external source.  God’s word is that light to us.  How are we to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsehood?  How are we to know if a thing is in fact pleasing unto God?  What will work to help us to stay the course on the narrow path that leads to life when most everyone else is headed in a different direction?  God’s inspired Word alone can do that (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).   Every Gideon Bible includes this wonderful testimony regarding the Scripture’s ability to guide us: “The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. CHRIST is its grand subject, our good the design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.”  God’s Word provides direction for life for us and helps us to stay on course.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

HE CARES FOR YOU (1 Peter Chapter 5)

1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

The context of this ever necessary encouragement is the exhortation to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God (Cf. 1 Peter 5:6).  And we should thereby remind ourselves that anxiety has its source in pride and unbelief.  In pride we wrongly suppose ourselves capable of dealing with our problems.  Lacking faith, we refuse to trust God with them.

Worry is a prevalent sin from which no one is exempt.  The average person worries about many things, but as someone has suggested: 40% of things we worry about will never happen; 30% have to do with things in the past that cannot be changed; 12% relate to criticism by others (mostly untrue); 10% are about our health which only gets worse under stress; only 8% have to do with real problems that we will face.  All that being said, the reality is that anxiety is counterproductive.  It’s been compared to rocking in a rocking chair, a lot of energy is expended but you don’t get anywhere.  Indeed the Greek term translated “anxieties” means “to draw in different directions, distract.”  Worry is a distraction whereby interest is paid on tomorrow’s troubles.

A humorous story speaks to the need to do something with one’s anxieties.  “I have a mountain of credit card debt,” one man told another.  “I’ve lost my job, my car is being repossessed, and our house is in foreclosure, but I’m not worried about it.”  “Not worried about it!” exclaimed his friend.  “No.  I’ve hired a professional worrier.  He does all my worrying for me, and that way I don’t have to think about it.”  “That’s fantastic.  How much does your professional worrier charge for his services?”  “Fifty thousand dollars a year,” replied the first man.  “Fifty thousand dollars a year?  Where are you going to get that kind of money?”  “I don’t know,” came the reply.  “That’s his worry.”  But there are, of course, no professional worriers.

The Greek term translated casting means “to throw or cast upon.”  It is otherwise used in the New Testament only one other time (when the disciples threw their garments on the back of the colt Jesus was to ride; Cf. Luke 19:35).  We are in that sense exhorted to cast all our anxieties on the Lord.  Not just the small ones or just the big ones.  As someone has said, “Our great problems are small to God’s power, our small problems are great to God’s love.”  God is sufficiently wise, powerful, and loving to deal with our troubles--no matter how deep the heartaches, how challenging the difficulties, or how disappointing the failures.  All our anxieties, the whole heap of them, are to be cast upon the broad shoulders of Jesus.

He cares for you.  He who purposed to bear the full measure of your sins cares for you (Cf. 1 Peter 2:24).  He who serves as “the Shepherd and Overseer” of your soul cares for you (Cf. 1 Peter 2:25).  Jesus had likewise spoken of the need to trust God and not worry: “Look to the birds of the air: they neither reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they” (Matthew 7:26)?

I’m wondering if Peter reflected on his own experience with Jesus amidst a storm when he wrote these inspired words.  Jesus and the disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee when “a great windstorm arose” (Mark 4:37).  They waves were breaking in the boat and the boat was filling up with water.  Jesus himself was asleep, but the disciples were fearful.  They work Jesus up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing” (Mark 4:38).  “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace!  Be Still!’  And the wind ceased, and there was great calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?”  And they were filled with fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:39-40)?  Who indeed?  If He can calm the wind and waves then surely he can calm our anxiety-prone hearts.  He can “impart the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Cf. Philippians 4:6-7).  There’s no need for worry when you’ve got Jesus in your boat.  He cares and He is able.

A song puts the matter this way: “I cast all my cares upon You.  I lay all of my burdens down at your feet.  And anytime that I don’t know what to do.  I will cast all my cares upon you” (Words and music by Kelly Willard; c1986  by Maranatha! Music).

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE END IS AT HAND (1 Peter Chapter 4)

1 Peter 4:7-11, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

“The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7).  So said the Apostle Peter.  Some have supposed him mistaken in light of the fact that it has been nearly two thousand years since he spoke of such things.  But he was speaking of the imminence of Christ’s return, not its immediacy.  Christ’s return is imminent, it could happen at any time.  John MacArthur has commented on this matter: “A natural reading of the New Testament yields the truth that to the early church Jesus’ coming was imminent; that is, that it could happen at any time. They believed that He could come back for them in their lifetime. For the early church, imminence contained elements both of certainty and uncertainty. They were certain that Jesus would one day return, but (unlike numerous modern date setters) were uncertain when. Not knowing when He might return, they wisely lived prepared for and hoping for Jesus to return at any moment.”

There are many who are even now preparing for some kind of future doomsday.  They build shelters and stockpile supplies, but their motivation does not arise from a spiritual concern.  Peter’s instructions speak to the spiritual and moral imperatives that should govern the lives of God’s children in light of the reality of Christ’s imminent return. 

The imminence of Christ’s return challenges us to be “self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).  We are to “continue steadfastly in prayer,” but mundane affairs and countless distractions work against our resolve and devotion (Cf. Colossians 4:2).  Our thoughts and behavior need to be as those awake to the reality of Christ’s imminent return (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8).

In view of the imminence of Christ’s return we are to fervently love one another.  This is something we are to do “above all” (1 Peter 4:8).  Peter had previously written of the need to love one another in this manner (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22).  This kind of sincere and earnest love for one another is to characterize the lives of Christ’s followers (Cf. John 13:34-35).

There is also the need to show hospitality.  The Greek word translated “hospitality” means literally to be “friendly to strangers.”  Hospitality involves more than entertaining guests and is especially called for in times of need or persecution (Cf. Acts 2:45; Matthew 26:35-40).  The recent persecution of believers in Iraq—when thousands were forced to flee from their homes—is a good example of a kind of situation in which showing hospitality proves necessary.

The imminence of Christ’s return motivates us to fully utilize our spiritual gifts.  Every believer in Christ has received a gift.  Whereas the Apostle Paul lists various gifts (Cf. Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, 27-30; Ephesians 4:11), Peter speaks of two broad categories--serving gifts and speaking gifts.  “As good stewards of God’s varied grace,” believers are to use their gifts “to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10).  Those serving are to serve “by the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11).  Those speaking are to speak as “one who speaks the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).  Gifts are to be used for the common good (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7), to the building up of the body (Cf. Ephesians 4:12), and to the glory of God (Cf. 1 Peter 4:11).

J. Vernon McGee spoke of the need to live our lives according to the earnest expectation of Christ’s imminent return, “Today we see a lot of careless, slipshod living, but also a great emphasis on prophecy. I hear people say, ‘Oh, I’m waiting for the Lord to come!’ Brother, my question is not whether you are looking for the Lord to come, but how are you living down here? How you live down here determines whether or not you are really looking for the Lord to come.”  We don’t know when Christ is returning, but we know that His return in imminent.  In view of His imminent return we need to pray earnestly, love fervently, care purposefully, and serve wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


1 Peter 3:15, “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

The term translated “defense” in this verse is the Greek apologia which means literally “to talk one’s self off of.”  It was used in the Greek law courts of an attorney who talked his client off from a charge made against him.  The word can also refer to an informal explanation or defense of one’s position and in that sense describes an answer given to the skeptical or derisive inquiries of ill-disposed opponents.  That is the sense of the term’s use in this context.  The same term was used by the Apostle Paul in reference to his address before his Jewish opponents in which he shared his testimony in defending himself (Cf. Acts 22:1).  Christian Apologetics, that field of theology which endeavors to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, derives its name from this term.

Peter’s readers were suffering as a direct result of their faith in Christ.  Their faith was tested as they endured suspicion, derision, accusations and threats.  But in place of fear (Cf. 1 Peter 3:14) they were exhorted in their hearts to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15).  The antidote for fear is wholehearted submission to the Lord Jesus.  The believer in Christ is to always be ready to make a defense.

The need for a defense regarding one’s faith arises because of the inquisitiveness of unbelievers with respect to a believer’s hope.  The verse presupposes both that a believer possesses such a hope and that his or her hope is visibly evident.  The unbeliever is left to wonder why such a hope exists and how and why it is maintained, especially when there is no apparent earthly reason for its existence.

With respect to our witness before the lost we possess a hope that they do not have.  The unbeliever is one “having no hope and without God in the world” (Cf. Ephesians 2:12).  Life in this trouble-filled world is characterized by much despair.  Who hasn’t had a hope or dream shattered?  The prospect of pending death casts a shadow over all of lost humanity (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13).

But the believer in Christ possesses a living hope that is firmly rooted in the undeniable truth of Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Cf. 1 Peter 1:3).  What is the believer’s reason for hope?  The Risen Savior, the One who has conquered sin and death, resides within his heart (Cf. 1 Peter 1:8-9).  Hope translates the Greek elpis which speaks to the confident expectation regarding some future thing.  Contrary to the common usage of its English counterpart it includes no element of doubt.  We are exhorted to “set (our) hope fully on the grace that will be brought to (us) at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).  Our hope is to be fully invested in the sure promise of Christ’s pending return (i.e. “the blessed hope;” Titus 2:13).

We are to be people of hope, and in distinctive fashion, because we serve a Risen and Returning Savior. Much in this life is not guaranteed to us. “God hath not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God hath not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain. But God hath promised strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way, grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, undying love.”  Christ has promised to return for us and in that pending reality we have good reason to be of good cheer.  With that promise Christ reassured his troubled disciples (Cf. John 14:1-4).  The believing community is likewise repeatedly exhorted to encourage one another in this very same truth (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:18; Hebrews 10:25).  In the Risen and Returning Savior we have good reason to be ever hopeful.

As lights shining amidst the darkness, God’s children are called to be people of hope in this despairing world.  But to be hopeful Christians we need to be heavenly-minded Christians.  If we are to maintain a credible witness before the lost, there is likely a need for less complaining about our circumstances in the “here and now” and more attention to given to the glory that awaits us in the “there and then” (Cf. Colossians 3:14; Philippians 3:19b-21).  God would have us to be people full of hope (Cf. Romans 15:13).  Amy Carmichael put it this way, “Make us thy mountaineers, we would not linger on the lower slope, fill us afresh with hope, O God of hope.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

CRAVE THE WORD (1 Peter Chapter 2)

1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”

On one of our trips to Uganda a visit with a pastor was disrupted by the incessant crying of a small child.  In speaking to the father of the child it was discovered that the girl—who appeared to be no bigger than a baby--was in fact about 5 years old.  She had a disorder that prevented her from digesting her food properly.  She had not grown because she could not eat.  Steps were taken to facilitate a visit to a specialist.

What is true in the physical realm holds true in the spiritual.  God wants us to grow up spiritually into Christ-like maturity.  Just as a newborn baby is expected to grow physically, the newly born again child of God is expected to grow up also.  And there is something very wrong if a Christian is never growing.  The number one reason why they sometimes don’t is spiritual malnutrition.  They do not grow because their spiritual diet is lacking.

The command in this verse is to “long for” the Word.  The term speaks of having a great desire for something.  One translation uses the word “crave” to express the thought.  Our desire for the Word ought to be like that of a newborn baby craving mother’s milk.  There is nothing more important to a newborn baby.  They will loudly express their displeasure if it is denied to them.  Imagine if a believer did the same (i.e. loudly wailing) if for some reason the Word of God was not availed to himJ

New born babies don’t need to be taught to like mother’s milk, they instinctively long for it from birth.  Christians are like that too.  The Spirit of God puts a craving for the Word into the heart of the newly born-again child of God.  By the Spirit you craved the Word when you were first saved and through the influence of the Word you grew.  Underlying the craving for the Word is another Spirit-led desire.  Believers don’t crave the Word simply because they are commanded to, they crave the Word because they yearn to know Jesus better.

This craving for the Word has practical implications.  The believer has certain responsibilities to the Word of God that are to be approached with a “craving the Word” sort of attitude.  It is necessary to hear (Cf. Romans 10:17), read (Cf. Revelation 1:3), study (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:15), memorize (Cf. Psalm 119:11), and meditate on (Cf. Psalm 1:2) the Word.  Spiritual growth then takes place as the Spirit of God applies the Word of God to the heart of the believer.

George Mueller once wrote of the need for us to find spiritual nourishment in God’s Word: “I saw more clearly than ever, that the first and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished…Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord.  I began, therefore, to meditate on the New Testament, from the beginning, early in the morning…for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.  And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything that the first thing a child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for the inner man.  As the outer man is not fit for work for any length of time, except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man…Now what is food for the inner man?--not prayer, but the Word of God—and here again not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.”