Meet God in the Morning – Use this Free eBook to help

A lot of times, people take stock of where they are spiritually at the beginning of the year. They make resolutions to do different things that will help them draw closer to God throughout the year. Have you ever stopped in the middle of the year to evaluate how well you’re doing in meeting that goal? That’s an easy goal to let go of and forget because there are so many distractions. If you made that kind of goal at the beginning of the year and you’ve fallen behind, take heart. Our God gives second and third and fiftieth and one hundredth chances. If you want to begin to work on that again, let me introduce you to my devotional book series. I’d like to offer you a free eBook where you can spend five to ten minutes a day reading and contemplating God’s presence in your life. This site won’t even collect an email address! If you don’t know how to send a book to your Kindle, I can help you do that. Gain a habit that will enrich your every day life.

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Bible Versions and Permissions

Up until January 1, 2018, verses used in each devotional were from the New International Version of the Bible.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I will be going back and adding this passage to each page that used an NIV quotation per their website

I will be using the New Century Version in 2018.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

I am using the New King James version in 2019

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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When Ministry Interrupts Our Plans – Mark 2:1-13

I don’t like interruptions, do you? I make my plans and schedules. I know what work I want to do and when. I set up and live my routines. And then, something happens to interrupt my well-laid plans. Let’s not forget that my planning comes after praying for God’s direction. OK, maybe sometimes I make my plans and ask God to bless things then, but even doing that, something happens to distract me from my original goal. In today’s passage, Jesus is interrupted in the middle of His teaching with a request to bring healing. He healed the man, and so much more! Then, He went off to the sea side to get away from everyone, and a crowd descended upon Him, interrupting His alone time with God. Jesus took advantage of the interruption to teach the people. What would happen if we saw interruptions in our lives as opportunity to minister to people in need? I think it would change the world!

1. And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.

After traveling throughout the region of Galilee, Jesus came back to His home base of Galilee. Word got out that He was at home, and the people flocked to Him. The crowds gathered inside the house and spilled into the area around the house so that anyone who might have wanted to get in would have no way of breaking through the crowds. Jesus preached the word of God. I don’t know if they came to see Him perform miracles and heal people, but for whatever reason they came, Jesus proclaimed the message of the Kingdom of God and the people didn’t leave. I’m reminded of the discussion we had in a class I was in where people were criticizing some of the methods other churches were using to get people to come to their church. Our professor listened for awhile and then made this profound statement: “Whatever you do to get people to come to church, make sure that they hear the good news of Jesus Christ.” In our lives, no matter what we do to gain an audience whether it be in person or on social media, we must make sure that we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.

And now we see the point of the story. Four men were bringing a man “sick of the palsy” (more modern translations describe the man as paralyzed) to be healed by Jesus. As I imagine the situation, one of the friends heard that Jesus was in town and decided this was the perfect time to get Jesus to heal his paralyzed friend. Perhaps he hadn’t heard about Jesus and been able to get to Him in the crowd after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed. Maybe he came the day after only to find out that Jesus had left town. He knew that he had to act fast, so he rounded up the other three friends who gathered at the home of the paralyzed man and then carried him through the streets so that he could see Jesus. Only, because it took them so long to get everything ready and to walk through the streets, by the time they got there, the crowd was outside the door. There was no way to get in. It would have been easy to give up at that point. (Have you ever been so frustrated by circumstances that you want to give up on something you really want?) These friends came up with an alternative solution. Houses in those days had flat roofs. Sometimes, people slept on the roof. Most houses had outside stairs to the roof and this house was no different. They carried their friend up the stairs and after a few calculations to figure out about where Jesus was standing, they dug a hole in the roof that was large enough to let their friend down. (Just note that the construction methods of the time would make repairing the roof a little easier than it would be today.)

I imagine that digging sounded like scratching at first. Perhaps it was even unnoticeable in the beginning. As the friends got closer to digging through the roof, things got louder and then, I imagine, debris started falling down on those who were closest to Jesus, maybe even on Jesus Himself and the digging became a distraction, an interruption to the teaching. As riveting a teacher as Jesus must have been, people started looking up at the sound of the digging and tried to figure out what was happening, Then, a small hole appeared that eventually grew large enough to let the man down on his mat and these friends lowered him until he was on the floor in front of Jesus. Mark tells us that story in one sentence, and while I added some imagination to the story, I believe something like that happened. And what does Jesus do?

5. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

Jesus forgave the man who was paralyzed. He granted him total forgiveness for his sins. Let’s go back to the imagination again. I can’t help but wonder about the guys on top of the roof and what they were thinking. “What did Jesus say? Is our friend walking yet?” “Jesus forgave him of his sins.” “What? What good does that do? We wanted him to walk again.” Sometimes we come before God with a preconceived notion of what He needs to do to satisfy us. Then, God deals with our biggest need and it doesn’t seem to take care of our immediate need and we wonder how God got it so wrong. Again, some of this comes from speculation, but it makes sense to me. Am I way off on this idea? As to how the people in the house reacted, read on.

6. But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7. Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?

Oh those scribes. They were there, even in Capernaum. Maybe they didn’t have the big names that the scribes in Jerusalem had, but they had the same attitude. They knew how God worked and they “knew” that God didn’t act like that. Perhaps they came to learn from a new teacher. Perhaps they came to critique and judge this new teacher. For whatever reason they were there, they heard Jesus proclaim forgiveness and they didn’t like it. They accused Him in their hearts of blasphemy. They had no thoughts for the paralyzed man, they were just upset that Jesus would dare to forgive sins since that was God’s job, not some unknown teacher’s job. They didn’t say it out loud, but they had made their verdict: this Jesus was not a teacher from God because He was trying to do what only God could do.

8. And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9. Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10. But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) 11. I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.

Have you ever been in a situation where it seems that someone can read your mind. It’s a bit uncomfortable when someone looks at you and repeats what you’re thinking. Jesus not only perceived what these scribes were thinking, He called them out on their thoughts. He said, in effect, “Why are you accusing me of blasphemy because I forgave this man’s sins? Which is easier to say, ‘your sins are forgiven?’ or ‘take up your mat and walk?’” Both things are easy to say, but what makes them difficult is to say them with effectiveness. Of the two, you wouldn’t notice a difference if someone was forgiven. If I say I forgive someone, you wouldn’t notice a change in their appearance or abilities, even if I was able to actually forgive them completely. Jesus had that power to forgive all of this man’s sins. While the effect couldn’t be seen outwardly, it lay the groundwork for that man’s life after Jesus’s next act which was to heal Him. And, Jesus told the scribes point blank that the truth of His ability to forgive sins would be that the man would be able to pick up his bed and walk out of the house. And then, Jesus told the man to pick up his bed and walk home. I don’t know if there could have been any teaching after this miracle. Perhaps this miracle actually was a culmination of the day’s lesson.

12. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

So what happened? The guy didn’t wallow in self-pity and tell Jesus it would be nice if he’d be able to do that some time in the future. He obeyed. Immediately. His response was something along the lines of “Jesus told me to do it, so I’m going to do it.” He got up, picked up his bed, and left the building. The people in the house had the right reaction: they were amazed and they glorified God. Their words were simple: “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” I don’t know about you, but I’m still amazed when I see God working, and even more so when He answers a specific prayer. Sometimes that amazement borders on disbelief. It’s not that I don’t believe God will work miracles, it’s that I have a hard time believing that He’d work those miracles in my life. The miracle began with the forgiveness of sins, and sometimes, even though I “know” that I’m forgiven, I don’t feel forgiven. I should note that the problem is mine, not God’s. Because I don’t feel forgiven, I don’t feel worthy of having God act in my life, and thus, I’m astounded when He does act miraculously. I pray that I would never lose the amazement when I see God work, but that I would also experience God’s complete forgiveness and live so that others would experience that same miracle.

13. And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.

In modern terms, we could describe the guy walking out of the house, carrying his bed, as a “drop the mic” moment. Jesus left the city again and went to the sea side. (The Sea of Galilee.) One of the benefits of living in Corpus Christi is that we can go to the water and either drive by or walk along the bay. There’s a sense of calm and peace, especially when a lot is on your mind. I love the experience of watching the birds in the area. Jesus probably enjoyed the calming effects of the sea. But, people, the multitude, found out where He was and they flocked to them. Jesus didn’t run away when He saw the people coming, He recognized this as another chance to teach them about the Kingdom of God and He took advantage of that to teach them. Jesus needed His alone time with God, which is a good reminder for us to spend time alone with God, but He took advantage of opportunities to teach the good news to the crowds who interrupted that time. I don’t know about you, but I tend to let interruptions to my plans and my schedule upset me. I wonder what would happen if I took advantage of life’s interruptions to share the good news of Jesus with others.

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Spreading Out With The Message – Mark 1:32-45

My wife overheard me as I made this video and noted that I made a BIG mistake. (Theological error) Rather than redoing the video, I decided to give you the chance to take advantage of my mistake. If you let me know what my mistake was, I’ll put you in a drawing for a free set of my devotional books. That’s one set from all the different social media groups I post this to.

As we finish Mark 1, we begin experiencing what scholars call “The Messianic Secret.” Jesus prevented the demons from telling who He was, but also sought to persuade those He helped to avoid mentioning what He had done. There was no healer greater than Jesus, but His mission was to proclaim the kingdom of God. As soon as people found out that they could be healed if they met Jesus, though, He’d spent a lot of time healing. We see the beginning of the spread of the message of the Kingdom of God as Jesus deliberately follows His call to proclaim His message instead of settling for a ministry of miracles and healing.

32. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. 33. And all the city was gathered together at the door. 34. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.

As we look at the continuation of the story that began in the synagogue and carried over to Peter’s house, we see an interesting time shift: evening – when the sun set. Why was that important? The Jewish day goes from sundown to sundown. The Sabbath begins when most of us in the western world would simply recognize a beautiful sunset on Friday. It continues until sunset on Saturday. When the sun set, any Sabbath restrictions on travel and work would no longer be in effect and people could travel, help those who were sick, or do any other work. In this situation, we see that not only are the people seeking to observe the Sabbath, they avoided putting Jesus in the place of working on the Sabbath. Would Jesus have healed people if they had come on the Sabbath? Probably, but by waiting until sun set, the people didn’t put Jesus in what they would have considered an awkward situation. Once the sun set, though, the crowds gathered bringing those who were sick and demon-possessed. It may not have been hyperbole when Mark proclaimed that the whole city showed up at the door. And Jesus took the time and the effort to heal those who were sick and cast demons out of those who were possessed. I always found it interesting that Jesus wouldn’t let the demons tell everyone who He was. I guess that getting the imprimatur of demons might not have looked good as Jesus ministered to the people. Later, He would be accused of casting out demons with satanic power (e.g. Luke 11:15) so getting their endorsement might have made things a lot worse. At the same time, it was one thing to be recognized as a teacher who could perform miracles, but having people see Him as Messiah would up the expectations and lead people to expect a military leader. As the disciples began to realize that Jesus was Messiah, they implied that they expected some kind of military move to overthrow the Romans.

35. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 36. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. 37. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.

Martin Luther is said to have prayed two hours a day in the morning. Unless he had reason to believe that he was dealing with great difficulties: then he spent three hours a day. Disclaimer: I can’t imagine doing that! Yet, the example we see from Jesus is that He spent a great deal of time in prayer. In this instance, He rose early in the morning, got away from everyone, and prayed. Simon (Peter) and the other three disciples looked for Him because everyone else was looking for Him. When they found Him, it was almost like they rebuked Him for going off and praying. They wanted Jesus to know that people were looking for Him: maybe newcomers who had heard gossip about the healings, maybe people who had heard about His teachings. Whatever the case, they wanted Jesus to strike while the iron was hot and they had a hard time understanding why He would spend time in prayer when there was so much to do. Our world has a similar attitude. In the church we have people who feel bad because all they can do is pray, not realizing that prayer is vital to the life and work of the church. We have people who don’t have time to pray because they’re too busy working for God. Outside the church, people laugh behind our backs that we believe that prayer makes a difference. Our response to those inside and outside the church who would disdain prayer as vital to our being as followers of Christ should be to begin by praying for them, remind them how much Jesus emphasized prayer, and then pray for them again.

38. And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. 39. And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

Jesus’s response was not what they were expecting. Perhaps they were thinking that Jesus could set up a nice business for Himself, healing all those who were sick or demon-possessed. If He had done that, He wouldn’t have needed to make house calls, since, as people heard about Him, they would flock to Him. Jesus let them know immediately that God had a different idea. He was called to go to other places and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. Because of that, He walked throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and casting out demons. I have no doubt that if Jesus was looking for a nice, calm life, He could have set up shop in any of these towns, but that wouldn’t have fit in with God’s call. He found God’s call on His life by praying, and He lived each day gaining power to fulfill His call by praying.

40. And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.

While Jesus was traveling between preaching areas in Galilee, a leper stopped in front of Him and asked Jesus to make him clean. We take this action in stride, but what the leper did in this situation broke all of society’s norms for proper behavior by a leper. A leper was supposed to wear rags, let everyone know that he or she was unclean, and maintain social distancing. Instead, this leper got within arm’s length of Jesus and begged Him to cleanse his disease. He asked Jesus by noting that if He wanted to, He could make that leper clean. The NIV describes Jesus as being indignant while the King James describes Jesus as being moved with “compassion.” If indignant is the correct translation, I can only imagine that Jesus was indignant at the way lepers in general were treated. I think, though, that Jesus being moved by compassion is much more in line with the nature of Jesus. He was so moved with compassion that He reached out and touched this man and brought cleansing to him. The minute Jesus touched him, he was no longer a leper, he was a man, an individual, someone important in God’s eyes. The reminder for us is that all people are important in the eyes of God and rather than label them, we should embrace them with His love.

43. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44. And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

Leprosy was a dangerous, frightening disease which led to the precautions that included isolating people with leprosy and the requirement to verbally warn people that they were around. Being healed of leprosy was a great event that involved verification by a priest and special sacrifices with the ritual prescribed by Moses himself. When Jesus healed this man, He told him to follow the Law. He also told the guy not to say what happened to those around him, but to make sure that he did things decently and in order: by the book, if you will. The guy’s joy was too great and he told everyone he met what Jesus had done for him. The result was that Jesus couldn’t go into a city without being mobbed. The mobs would focus on His healings instead of the message He had from God and that would derail His mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God. So, He started teaching in various spots around the desert and people still flocked to Him. While we can criticize this guy for not doing what Jesus said, we can’t fault his enthusiasm. In fact, we should have the same enthusiasm in our world today as we share the love and grace of Jesus with others; as we share what Jesus has done for us. Has Jesus made a difference in your life? If your answer is “yes” how can you avoid sharing with the same excitement this man had. If the answer is “no” please contact me and I would love to share how He will.

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Calling the Disciples and Ministering in Capernaum – Mark 1:16-31

Mark moves Jesus’s story into Galilee quickly. In these 16 verses, Jesus calls His first four disciples, teaches in a synagogue, casts out a demon, and heals Peter’s mother-in-law. There are some interesting side trips along the way as we think about Zebedee, Peter’s wife, Jesus’s authority, and social media. Join me as we continue this wild ride through the life story of Jesus.

16. Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 17. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. 19. And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. 20. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

When Jesus went to Galilee, we see from verse 15 that He began preaching. According to A.T. Robertson, the book of John reveals a year of ministry between His baptism and His ministry in Galilee. By the time verse 16 rolls around, it’s likely that Jesus was becoming well known. Jesus went everywhere to proclaim the Kingdom of God and here we see Him walking by the sea, finding these fishermen. Robertson notes that Simon (later Peter) and Andrew, and James and John were all partners. Based on my understanding of the nature of teachers in that time, and the nature of Jesus, I believe that Jesus deliberately went to this location looking for those four. Jesus, as a teacher of those days would, was looking for disciples. His mission was obviously greater than any of the other teachers, because Jesus would be preparing His disciples to proclaim the gospel to the whole world. Again, based on the the nature of those times, I believe that all four of those fishing buddies/partners may have sought to be accepted as disciples by other teachers of the day and were rejected. Giving up on their hope of becoming rabbis, they worked together as fishermen until Jesus came and promised that they would become fishers of men. Paul described that situation in 1 Corinthians 1:28. While I could be wrong in my understanding, I can’t help but think that Paul might have had the same belief.

It’s interesting how quickly James and John left the family business. Again, I think that adds strength to the idea that they had wanted to connect with a teacher and had been rejected. I think their father understood and his love for his sons meant that he didn’t do anything to stop them from following their desire and commitment to God. Years ago, when I went into the ministry, my Father could have tried to urge me to join the family business of real estate. He encouraged me to follow the path that God was leading, even though I could have eventually inherited a business with my name already on the sign. We sometimes forget that parents have dreams for their children that are waylaid when they seek to follow Jesus. So, praise God for those parents like Zebedee and my father who encouraged their children to follow God’s call and pray for those who might have difficulty dealing with that call.

All my speculation aside, the most important truth of this passage is that Jesus picked these four men specifically to be His disciples and they answered the call. There is no doubt in my mind that they had heard of Jesus, and were ready to follow Him without hesitation.

21. And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. 23. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24. Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

Jesus and His four disciples went to Capernaum. Luke and Matthew tell how His hometown people in Nazareth had rejected Jesus (both in chapter 4 of their gospels) and Capernaum is recognized as His home base. There is even talk that the synagogue where Jesus taught there has been discovered and could be restored. I wonder if that would make that place a shrine, ultimately an idol of some sort, where people went to worship the location instead of marveling at the Savior. It is obvious that Jesus was with His fellow Jews in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. It is evident that He had been recognized as a teacher in that they allowed Him to teach. The amazing part of His teaching is that He taught with authority. The teaching method at that time involved invoking the names of past, well-known rabbis to verify what they themselves were teaching. Paul studied under one of the rabbis that Jewish teachers quoted, and we see Gamaliel play a part in the early days of the church. He may have been an adversary, but he was honest. Teaching would include the phrase “As <insert famous rabbi’s name here> said…” They wouldn’t use their own authority as they taught. Jesus didn’t quote the rabbis or give them attribution. In the Sermon on the Mount, He uses the construction of “You have heard it said…but I say…” This is the authority that He taught with. This is the authority that the Pharisees questioned Him about. This was the authority that amazed the people.

In the middle of His teaching, trouble popped up. A man with an evil spirit cried out interrupting His teaching. It’s interesting that the evil spirit knew his enemy and knew his enemies mission. He wanted to be left alone, he knew that Jesus would destroy that evil, and he knew that Jesus was the Holy one of God, the Messiah, God the Son. It sure did interrupt the synagogue teaching, though, and Jesus didn’t want to deal with the crowds and the political expectations the people had for the Messiah. His mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God was much more important than all of that.

25. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.

As I read this, I thought of a character who, in some situation comedy that I can’t remember, used to say, “Shut up your mouth.” I know Jesus didn’t say that, but even His politely worded rebuke was powerful. The evil spirit damaged the man somehow, perhaps leaving him convulsing on the ground and came out of him screaming. Evil leaves its mark, and even though the man was now free of that evil spirit, I have no doubt that people in future years would remind him of the time that he interrupted Jesus while he was teaching in the synagogue. We often hear people wondering why Jesus came at the time He did and not now. Let me just say that if this happened in today’s world, just about everyone in the synagogue would have captured the encounter on their cell phones and uploaded the video to their YouTube accounts and the man would have become infamous. For those of us who follow Christ, though, our reaction shouldn’t be to look at and admonish or mock the one who had been demon-possessed. We should look at how Jesus released that man from the stranglehold the demon had on him and freed him from his sin making him a new creation.

It saddens me today when people, especially those who have achieved some measure of fame, come to Christ and those who follow Christ at skeptical. Rather than welcoming those who have joined the family of God, they bring up the new believer’s past. They doubt the sincerity of the change. They browbeat them so much that when the new believer looks to get away from the persecution, they often end up among those who would lead them back into their old way of life. We need more people like Barnabas, who opened the door for Paul to enter into fellowship with the Christians in Jerusalem.

27. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. 28. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

If the people were amazed that Jesus taught with His own authority, how much more did this display of spiritual authority astonish them. Not only did He neglect quoting all the “experts” who had guided the teaching of their rabbis as long as they could remember, He had shown a spiritual authority over evil, over unclean spirits. The evil spirits knew who He was and they obeyed Him. And, even without computerized social media, His fame went viral. People all over the region heard about Jesus and wanted to know more. In the verses that will begin next week’s passage we’ll see that people from all over brought those who needed to be healed to Him as soon as the Sabbath was over. His fame began spreading on the day when people weren’t allowed to travel more than a certain distance.

One of the problems I have is that I’ve been a follower of Jesus for so long, I’ve lost that sense of wonder and awe when I see miraculous works of God. I expect them. Our pastor will often ask us, “What do you see God doing these days?” I usually don’t have much to say, not because God isn’t working, but I’ve grown accustomed to that from God. If I had one prayer today from this study it would be that God would remind me of the wonder in the way He works even in the simple things and that I would be struck with awe as I recognize His presence and His work.

29. And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. 31. And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.

When the men left the synagogue and went home, the expectation was that the women had prepared an afternoon meal for them. Women weren’t required to follow some of the rules of the Sabbath if it involved preparing a meal. Jesus and the other four went to Simon and Andrew’s home, only to discover that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick. As an aside here, I wonder if one of the reasons Capernaum became the base of operations Jesus used was so that Peter and Andrew could keep in touch with their family. I also wonder what happened to Simon’s (Peter’s) wife. We learn about his wife here, but only hear about her later on by implication when Paul asks about whether or not he had the right to bring a wife along on his journey as Peter (among others) did. There is an extra-biblical account that Peter’s wife died a martyr and that Peter rejoiced about her life in Christ and her call home. But, in this passage, it’s Peter’s mother-in-law in charge of the cooking, and she was sick and things hadn’t been done. They told Jesus and Jesus went in to see her, took her hand, and she was healed. She was healed so quickly that she got up and served them.
Please note: Jesus didn’t heal her so that she could make lunch. He healed her because she was sick. She got up and ministered, or served them, because that is what she enjoyed doing. We’ve all known those ladies who find ways to ply us with food whenever we visit. My mother always sought to make sure that we had something to eat when we visited her, even in the last years of her life when she was bedridden. The message here is that Jesus releases us from the sickness, the evil spirits, or the chains that bind us so that we can do those things we’re called to do in God’s Kingdom. No job in His kingdom is so small that it should be overlooked, no job is so great that it can’t be done, as long as we’re serving God in obedience to His call on our lives. Our responsibility is to discover what God’s called us to do, and then to do it cheerfully, whole-heartedly, serving God rather than men.

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The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – Mark 1:1-15

As I thought about what book to study next, I decided upon the gospel of Mark. It’s always important to study the gospels, and one of the things I like about Mark is that it moves so quickly and focuses on what Jesus does. There’s no long introduction in Mark, there’s no long genealogy. So, in that same spirit, let’s look at Mark starting from the beginning.

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

This is Mark’s introduction. I think it’s an interesting commentary. If you take this introduction as applying to the whole book, Mark makes it clear that the resurrection is part of the beginning of the gospel. If that’s true, then we are living in the continuing story of the gospel. The gospel story begins, according to Mark, with the preaching of John the Baptist. It still hasn’t ended. Some would see this as a commentary on the story of John the Baptist, noting that his story began the story of the gospel. Whatever the case may be, Mark reminds us that this is gospel or good news, and that the good news is the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That designation isn’t up for debate in his mind, that’s just truth. How often do we get caught up in debates over issues that aren’t productive. Mark didn’t debate the issue, he proclaimed it and then wrote the story that explained why he believed that.

2. As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Some translations mention Isaiah as the prophet, but verse two is actually a quote from Malachi 3:1. Verse three is found in Isaiah 40:3. Whatever the source for these verses, they’re being used to indicate the coming and the task of John the Baptist. John’s job was to help prepare the people for the coming of Jesus. He was to be a voice from outside calling on people to clear the way spiritually for the Messiah to come. I hate to make this comparison, but I’ve been to concerts and they always have a “warm-up” band. Their job is to get people in the right frame of mind to enjoy the main band. If, as they go off the stage, you think, “that was great, how can it be better?” then they’ve done their job, especially if you answer your own question after the first couple of numbers with “Now I see.” John had an amazing message of the need to repentance. He never sought the glory of Jesus and always pointed people to Jesus, but many wondered if he was the Messiah. (How can it get any better, John?) John told them again and again that he was nothing compared to the real Messiah who was coming.

4. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

Where did you find John? In the wilderness. He made it hard for people to find him, and yet, find him they did. People flocked to him, coming from all over the Jewish area of influence to hear his message. We wouldn’t call his message “seeker-friendly” to use today’s terminology. John let them know what was wrong and what they needed to do. He baptized people and told them that they needed to be baptized to bring about forgiveness of their sins. Now, a couple of things are interesting here. Baptism did not originate with John. Whenever a non-Jew wanted to accept the teachings of the Jewish faith and become a Jew, they were baptized. When John called on Jews to be baptized, it was almost like saying, “You have strayed so far from God that you should no longer be considered a Jew, you should be considered a pagan.” If I were to go into any Baptist Church and make statements like that, they’d probably run me out on a rail. The Jews flocked to John in spite of that. Perhaps they did that because they really were hungry for a prophet, since it had been hundreds of years since God had sent them a prophet. When John talked about the need to be baptized for remission of sins, I would take that to mean a symbolic washing away of sin because of the confession of sin and the accompanying change of heart. If baptism actually washed away or forgave sin, we could live as terrible people, just so long as we made sure to be baptized to get forgiveness. That’s contrary to the demands God places on the lives of believers.

6. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;

OK. I’m gonna say it. As a Baptist, we often identify with John the Baptist. But if John the Baptist came into many of our churches today, looking like that, bringing meals to a church potluck like that, and demanding that we confess our sins and get re-baptized, he wouldn’t last long. As Christians, we’ve become so sophisticated that we can judge the spirituality of people by the way they look, what they eat, and how they talk. (OK, that was sarcasm.) John would definitely not fit in with most of our churches. That should remind us not to look at outward appearances, but learn to listen to the heart of those we interact with.

7. And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. 8. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

As well as people received John’s message of repentance, which probably surprises most of us, he made it a point to remind people that one who was truly great was coming. When John compared himself to the coming Messiah, he told them, in effect, “You know the lowest servant in the household? The one who unties the shoes (after the master came in from walking on the streets shared by camels, donkeys, sheep, and other animals, if you catch my drift)? I’m not even worthy to be that slave in comparison to the one who’s coming.” John probably pointed at the Jordan River and noted that he baptized with water – a common everyday thing; the coming Messiah would infuse them with the power of God.

9. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: 11. And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

I would guess that John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah every time he preached. I would also guess that he was so sensitive to God’s Spirit working in him that when Jesus came, he recognized Him immediately. Other gospels describe John balking at baptizing Jesus. In the end, John did that, and then amazing things happened. Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, landed on Him, and a Voice from Heaven proclaimed Jesus to be God the Son. Even though Jesus hadn’t started His ministry yet, the Father proclaimed that He was well pleased with the Son. Whether that refers to a) Jesus’s life leading up to this point, b) Jesus submitting to baptism, or 3) a proclamation of all that would be, the Father was pleased with the Son. And, in this amazing transition, we move from talking about John and his message to focusing on Jesus.

12. And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness.13. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

If you’re familiar with the other gospels, you understand why I said that the gospel of Mark moves fast! We’re about 1/3 of the way through chapter one and we’re already at the part of the story that opens up the fourth chapter in both Matthew and Luke. Both of those gospels give us details on the last part of Jesus’s temptation. Mark just noted that Jesus followed the impulse of the Spirit, went into the wilderness for forty days and then, after He dealt with the temptations of Satan and the wild beasts, angels ministered to Him. We should be reminded that while we pray not to be led into temptation, being tempted isn’t a sin in and of itself, giving into temptation is. At the same time, God cares for us and sends messengers to minister to us throughout our days as we deal with those everyday battles against temptation and the wiles of the devil.

14. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,15. And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

I think this part of the timeline is interesting. Does verse 14 imply that Jesus didn’t begin His ministry until after John was put in prison, or does it mean that Jesus moved his base of ministry from Judea to Galilee in response to the arrest of John. Was there a period of time after the temptation before Jesus started His ministry? Was John arrested immediately after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness? My guess is that John was arrested not long after the temptation, because when Jesus came, John started pointing people to Him. As people turned to Jesus, John’s crowds dwindled and it may have been safer for Herod to arrest John. Then, Jesus recognized the unrest in the area and went back to Galilee to minister there. He preached the gospel: the good news. That good news contains the ideas that the kingdom of God was at hand, people still needed to repent, and that people should believe in the good news from God that we have forgiveness for our sins. It’s a message that still rings in our hearts and still calls people into the kingdom of God today.

While I will refer to the other gospels occasionally in what I write, I invite you to compare what happens in Mark with what happens in the other gospels and when things happen. I believe the more we know about our Savior, the more we can appreciate what He did while here on earth. Through learning about Him and appreciating Him, we get to know Him better.

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Finishing Thoughts – 1 John 5:13-21

We close out with I John as John leaves us with a number of finishing thoughts. We start by looking at the fact that we can know that we have eternal life and, knowing that, we can continue believing in Jesus to an even greater degree. He continued looking at prayer. What does prayer mean? What does prayer do? John dealt with those questions. From there he dealt with the issue of Christians who were heading toward a life of sin. Do we intervene? Do we say something? John left this section and this letter talking about what it means to be a Christian and added the final admonition to avoid idols.

13. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

John made the purpose of his letter clear: he wrote to Christians to help them to know that they have eternal life and to encourage their faith in Jesus – the Son of God. This knowledge that we have eternal life is one of the most important things that Christians can experience. We don’t think we have eternal life. We don’t hope we have eternal life. We KNOW that we have eternal life. We know that we have that life not because of who we are, but because of who Jesus is. We have eternal life because we believe in the name of the Son of God. Our hope is based on the eternal nature of God, not our temporary nature, not our temporary activities. Our hope of salvation doesn’t go up or down on the basis of good or bad activities like the stock market; out hope, our knowledge, is based on the eternal nature of God’s love and forgiveness.

14. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Prayer is always an interesting conundrum. Do we use prayer to manipulate God, as in Janis Joplin’s famous Mercedez Benz song? Do we use it to ask God to do things He doesn’t want to do? Is God wanting to do something, but waiting until we ask? Whatever all the ramifications and results of prayer may be, as Christians, we should seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. We deepen our relationship through prayer. John noted here that if we ask things according to God’s will, He hears and answers us as we desire. That, of course, leaves an “out” if our prayers aren’t answered, but it’s not one to boast of: we didn’t ask according to God’s will. So, where does that leave us with prayer? I believe that prayer is part of our constant communication with God that allows us to draw closer to Him. As we draw closer to Him, our desires come into alignment with His desires, His will. Ultimately, when we pray, we’re more concerned with things that God is concerned with and our prayers line up with His will. The end result is that God answers those prayers as we desire, because ultimately, they are the same as His desires. As we pray, we should seek to pray for things that bring honor to God rather than asking for things that meet our selfish desires.

16. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

These two short verses pack a wallop on the issue of sin. First of all, John dealt with two kinds of sin: sins that lead to death and sins that do not lead to death. I’m not Catholic, and I don’t put myself forward as an expert in Catholic theology, but this would seem to be where the Catholic Church deals with the idea of “mortal” and “venial” sins. As a Protestant, I’ve seen all sin as equal in God’s eyes with the distinction being forgivable and unforgivable sin. Jesus spoke of one unforgivable sin: blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. (e.g. Mark 3:29) What is blasphemy of the Spirit? According to A.T. Robertson, that would be attributing to the devil the manifest work of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, I think Christians commit this blasphemy often when we attack the work that God is doing through other denominations.
Meanwhile, if we see a brother committing a sin not unto death (forgivable or menial if you prefer either of those terms) we’re called to pray for God to forgive them and note that John says that God will give life for that kind of sin. I think that means forgiveness. I think that means that God will draw that person unto Himself so that they can recognize their sin and restore their relationship with God. We’re not allowed to look the other way in that case, we’re commanded to pray for them. On the other hand, if someone is sinning unto death (unforgivable or mortal) we aren’t called to pray for them. John didn’t say we can’t, he just said we weren’t commanded to pray for those people. I have a sneaking suspicion that part of this group are those people who were obviously in the anti-christ area, but also those who set themselves up as prophets as they sought to lead God’s people astray. We still have a lot of those folks running around today. John put it bluntly when he said that all unrighteousness is sin. At the same time, he reminded us that God will still forgive because not all sin leads to death.

18. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

As we look at this verse, it’s important that we understand that Greek has verb tenses that indicate duration as well as the activity. When John told us that someone who is born of God doesn’t sin, the verb indicates, commit a sin and keep on committing that sin. Earlier, he reminded us that anyone who claims to be sinless is self-deceived and a stranger to the truth. Here, again, the idea is that God’s people don’t remain in the ream of sin, living and enjoying a sinful lifestyle; instead, when we sin, we’re struck with remorse and enter into a state of repentance. In this verse, I believe “begotten of God” refers to Jesus and the meaning is the Jesus keeps us. He keeps us from indulging in sin. He keeps us in His hands when we do sin. He keeps us from the harmful touch of the devil or the wicked one. If we’re in Christ, if we’re one with Christ, the worst the devil can do is kill us. And while that sounds horrible, remember that Jesus told us not to fear the one who can kill the body, rather fear the one who can kill the soul. If our lives are united with God through Jesus Christ, we trust God to keep us in His grace and even death can’t harm us because that just leads us to the next step in our relationship with God.

19. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. 20. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

If you were to wake up in the country on a moonless night and walk outside, you would experience darkness. Because of the darkness, you’d be listening for any sound, straining your eyes to look for the path ahead, and using all your senses just to move forward. That’s the picture I get when I read that the whole world lies in wickedness. I think of that darkness of sin. In the midst of that all-encompassing darkness of sin, we are in the light of Christ. Because we are in His light, we can see and experience life in ways that people in the darkness of sin can never understand. This is how we know God. This is how we experience His presence. This is living each day in the eternal life of Jesus Christ. The amazing thing about this life in the light is that the power of light always conquers the power of darkness and our life in the light includes a responsibility to shine God’s light in such a way that we draw others into fellowship with the Son of God.

21. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

This might seem like an anti-climatic ending given the amazing beauty and the vast, overarching themes of this letter, but it’s a reminder that back then, idols were everywhere and they could worm their way into people’s lives in many ways. While they had protection because of God’s Holy Spirit, it was still possible for them to let their guards down. Our world today doesn’t have named idols so much as we have de facto idols that come between us and our relationship with God. John spent a lot of time in this letter dealing with our relationship with God, and the admonition to avoid idols is a reminder that we shouldn’t let anything come between us and our relationship with God. How do our modern day idols do that? Anything that becomes more important than God in our lives becomes an idol. Put God first in your life. Keep God first in your life. Maintain a growing relationship with God and you will most likely avoid those idols that disrupt your fellowship with God. Keep your focus on God and live for Him each day.

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God’s Testimony – 1 John 5:1-12

Something seems to be wrong with the process of inserting YouTube videos, so here’s the link to this week’s video:

In his gospel, John tells an amazing story. According to the story, Jesus needed to go through Samaria. That in iteself makes the story amazing, because no good Jew would have any dealings with Samaritans. Then, while the disciples awent into town to do business, Jesus waited by the well. While he was waiting, a woman came up and offered to get Him some water. A whole lot of other things happened and she ran back into the village to talk to the people about this guy she met at the well. They ran out to hear Jesus and the climax of the story, in my opinion, was when the people told the woman that while they believed because of what she said, now they believed because they heard Jesus themselves. While we may introduce people to Jesus, ultimately, God Himself makes the message come to life in the hearts and minds of those who follow Him

1. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

John made a very simple, yet elegant statement here: if anyone believes that Jesus is the Messiah, they’ve been born of God. He continued with that idea by noting that if someone loves the Father, they’ll love the Son also. While this isn’t always true in human relationships, most sons who have fathers that are loved and respected in the community begin life with all kinds of advantages. When it comes to God the Father and God the Son, though, they are co-equal and loving the Father naturally means loving the Son, just as loving the Son means loving the Father.

2. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

John extended this idea of familial love by including the way we show love to all of God’s children: by keeping His commandments. What that boils down to, as I understand it, is to love others the same way that God loves us and being willing to sacrifice everything to take care of the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. As we go through the economic effects of the coronavirus, the need to practice that kind of self-sacrificing love becomes overwhelming at times. While we aren’t called to surrender our lives in most cases, we’re called to be willing to surrender all of our earthly goods to care for the needs of those around us, especially people of the church. When we understand that Jesus boiled all the commandments into two basic categories: love God and love people, then it’s easy to understand that by loving God and by loving people we’re keeping God’s commandments. It’s not necessarily easy, especially with some people, but it’s not really a great burden. Whenever I run into someone that’s difficult to love, I realize how difficult I am to love and remember that God loved me first. If God can love me, even at my worst, I can find ways to love anyone. That commandment, while difficult, isn’t burdensome.

4. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

John saw life in terms of those things that were of God and those things that were opposed to God or the world. If someone is born of God, then they wouldn’t be bothered by those things that are of the world. They would overcome the world and the things of this world. The ultimate victory that overcomes the world is our faith. The fact that we can continue to trust in God, to have faith in His power and control in this world in spite of the way that the world is arrayed against us is the ultimate victory that allows us to live each day for God and to show His love to others. We overcome the world by trusting and believing that Jesus is the Son of God even those who live in the world mock and attack us for our faith. In John’s day, that would include overcoming all forms of persecution including exile and death. When the world seeks to cut us off from everyone, we have our relationship with God. If the world should seek victory by killing us and hoping to extinguish our existence, we have the power of the resurrection and life eternal that overcomes the world. The end result either way is that we overcome the world and have victory in Christ.

6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear record [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8. And there are three that bear witness in earth,] the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

You’ll notice that I’ve put part of verses 7 and 8 in brackets. Most later translations don’t include this wording: not because it isn’t true, but because those words don’t appear in the best manuscripts. Without going into a lesson on textual criticism, especially because I don’t know too much about it, my understanding is that when this happens, scholars believe that later scribes added these words to help clarify the message of the passage. I don’t doubt the truth of those words, I just don’t believe that they were in the original manuscripts. Does that make sense? That being said, John made an important doctrinal statement by noting that Jesus came from the water and the blood, while the Spirit bore witness. I think there’s a bit of a double meaning. First, the water and the blood could mean that Jesus came and we saw the Spirit approve during His baptism and during the crucifixion. The second meaning could be when Jesus was crucified and they stuck the spear in His side, both water and blood came out. A.T Robertson would argue that while that last point might be spiritual truth, the grammar and the language doesn’t have that meaning. He believes that the implication is that these are two separate events. Whatever the situation, John makes it clear that we understand Jesus to be the Son of God and the Messiah on the basis of a multiple number of proofs including the witness of the Spirit.

9. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. 10. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 11. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

John reminded us that while man’s testimony is great, God’s testimony is greater. I’m reminded of the story of the women at the well where the townspeople went out to the well to hear from Jesus because of the testimony of the woman who had met Jesus at the well. “And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of your saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42) The amazing thing about entering into a relationship with God is that we begin because someone tells us about God’s love for us. Once we enter into that relationship, we realize how much greater it is than we could have ever imagined. God testifies to us about His Son through His love, grace, and forgiveness as well as by the presence of the Holy Spirit. When you believe in Christ, God Himself lets you know even more about His amazing love. God has made the message of Jesus clear, and those who refuse to believe in the Son, those who refuse to believe God proclaim by their actions that they think God is a liar. Many religions seek to show the way to a better afterlife, but the only promise of eternal life we have comes from the message of Jesus Christ because eternal life is found in Him. Those who are in a relationship with the Son have this life and those without the Son do not have this life. Many seek assurance that they’re OK with God by pointing to all the good things they do. While those are wonderful things to do, the only promise of eternal life is found in Jesus Christ. Those who have a true promise of eternal life because of their relationship with Jesus Christ can sing joyfully, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

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What’s Love Got To Do With It – 1 John 4:11-21

In 1984, Tina Turner released a song called “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” In the song, it appears that she counsels people about falling in love, which is only a second hand emotion. A lot of popular songs deal with the issue of heartbreak and the problems caused by what the world calls love. As we look at I John as a whole, and especially the verses for this week, John would answer Ms. Turner with one simple word: “Everything!” Of course, John’s understanding of love was quite different from what society views as love. In John’s understanding, true love springs from God. It’s sacrifical. It cares for others. It supports others. So, what’s love got to do with life? How should it influence our behavior? God’s love flowing through us to people around us should be a transforming power that draws people to live in God’s love themselves.

11. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

As we think about the great love that God has for us, it’s unconscionable to imagine Christians not loving each other. Yet, we pick at each other for so many different, unimportant reasons. God didn’t wait for us to agree with Him before He showed His great love in sending Jesus to die for us, He showed us that He loved us with an irrevocable love that overpowered all of our sinful inclinations. He loves us without reservation. He sacrificed that which was most precious to Himself in sending Jesus to die for our sins. Were John to look in on us today, he might ask, with a tinge of sarcasm, “Oh, so your brother doesn’t believe the same as you? That’s a good reason to hate him?” We must have an outpouring of love among God’s people. As we deal with a world that’s becoming more hostile to Christians, we’ve got to love each other and stick together.

12. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

John points out that no one has seen God. OK, we might argue a bit on that point if we think about the disciples seeing God the Son and Moses seeing the glory of God pass by him, but the point is that in our world today, no one has seen God. What we can see is the effect God has on us. Jesus used the wind blowing as an example of people born in the Spirit (John 3:8) and I imagine John thought about that here. We can’t see the wind, but we can experience the effects. We can’t see God, but we can experience the effect He has on us. If God lives in us, then it follows that we’ll be able to love like He does. If we don’t have that love, we need to re-examine our faith.

13. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

In the example mentioned earlier (John 3:8), Jesus talked about being born of the Spirit. Here John helps us to understand what it means. We know that we live in Him because He’s given us His Spirit. Because the Spirit of God lives in us, we see ad understand that the Father sent the Son (Jesus) to be the Savior of the world. It all comes down to our confession that Jesus is the Son of God. In times contemporary with John, Roman citizens and subjects were required to visit an altar to Caesar and sacrifice a pinch of incense while saying the words “Caesar is lord.” If you made that confession, you got a certificate letting the authorities know that you had followed the prescribed pattern to be considered a good subject of Rome. One of the reasons Christians were persecuted is that they refused to make that confession, and instead confessed that Jesus alone was Lord. John’s words here told people that they need to be willing to undergo all kinds of persecution for refusing to follow the rules of government by following the love and grace of God. Christians did not go along to get along with society. They confessed that Jesus is Lord and endured the hardships that came from that declaration.

16. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

The truth is, it’s all about love: God’s love for us. That’s the beginning of our relationship with God. That’s the power that sustains us in our daily life. That’s the promise of our home in heaven with Him. God’s love gives us the power to stand up to the demands of society and obey God rather than what society demands. God’s love allows us to live in obedience to God, not out of fear but out of joy. We can be bold in our actions as we live in the love of God. God’s love works with man and we can be bold in the day of judgment, whether that judgment be the ultimate judgment in heaven or the possibility of facing earthly authorities who think they have power over us. Jesus reminded us not to fear the one who can kill the body (Matthew 10:28) but Him who can kill the soul. If we are living in the love of God, we don’t even fear Him.

19. We love him, because he first loved us. 20. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21. And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Why do we love God? We love Him because He first loved us. This isn’t like romantic love where love grows slowly as the couple gets to know each other. My wife and I have been married for over forty years. I asked her which of us loved the other first. She laughed. Our love started slow and grew as we spent time together. I think both of us would say that we never loved each other as much as we do now, and that will be overshadowed by our love in the future. God showed His love for us in that while we were still full of sin and separated from God, Christ died for us. He loved us with all of His being before we ever thought about searching for Him – and the truth is, we may think we looked for Him, but God’s been seeking us from the beginning of our lives on earth. The result should be that because we love God, we show it in the way we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. John dealt with people who claim to love the concept of God, whom they haven’t seen, while having contempt for others because they weren’t the right kind of people. Our lives should reflect the love of God for all people. It’s crazy, but we have a lot of people who claim to follow God but continue to look for exceptions to the call for love based on their ethnicity, skin color, or even their particular sin. This is the rule I have for myself: I’m allowed to hate the people that God hates but get to love all the people God loves. We could discuss how that love looks, but our actions toward others should always spring from God’s love. If we love God, we’ll love His people also.

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How to Determine if a Message is #FakeGospel or #TrueGospel – 1 John 4:1-10

As I write this, we’re involved in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone is dealing with the question of who to believe and who not to believe. It’s a problem in the secular world because the only standard seems to be that people will believe those spokesmen who reinforce their own beliefs. Of course, anything “the other side” says is obviously false or exaggerated. We hear an authority speak, and if we don’t like what they have to say, we bring up old quotes to prove that they aren’t always right, unless they agree with you. I don’t deal with politics in general, anymore, because the message of the gospel is far more important than any political issue, but I think it’s fair to say that most people would agree with this statement: “If you agree with me, you must be right, and if you disagree with me, you need to listen to me so that you can change your mind and become right.” All kidding aside, that seems to be the way of the world. John dealt with the question of authority as we begin chapter four, and the question is simple: what do people say about Jesus? That’s how you can tell what teaching should be looked at for further study and which teachings can be thrown out without going any farther

1. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2.. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

The way to test if a spirit, a teaching, a prophecy, or any other message purporting to come from God boils down to the question of Jesus. If someone believes and teaches that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, then they are to be given an audience. On the other hand, if someone teaches that Jesus was a spirit, or that He didn’t really come in the body of a man, but just looked like that, then nothing they say should be examined. Those people are opposed to the idea of Incarnation. Those people are opposed to the truth that Jesus was God the Son who came to earth, born as a baby, to bring us into a relationship with God. Is is possible for someone to say that Jesus came in the flesh and still be wrong? Of course it is. If you need proof, think about some of the things that I’ve taught. There are probably men and women much wiser than me who could tell you how I was wrong in one teaching or another. I never ask you to believe what I teach because I believe that Jesus came in the flesh, that Jesus was God the Son who became a man. I ask you to examine my teaching and all other teaching by God’s word.

At the same time, the false prophets, the false teachers, deny that Jesus came in the flesh. They deny that God the Son came down to earth as a man. If they miss that basic truth of the Christian faith, how can you trust anything else they may teach. Is it possible that they may teach something true. Why give them the time of day? Why give them attention? Why send them your money? Anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh; anyone who denies that Jesus was God the Son sent to earth in the flesh to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross doesn’t have the understanding to live and teach truth, even if they say a few good things.

4. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

John was with Jesus when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the Sadducees. How did this one man stand up against the political and religious weight of those groups? He was God the Son. Because of that strength, He stood up to people who seemed to be righteous in the eyes of the people, but were living and teaching contrary to God’s plan. John saw that happen. John stood up to the Roman authorities who sought to keep the gospel from spreading. How did he do that? The Holy Spirit lived in him. John put it this way: “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” We can stand up to those who would seek to keep us from sharing the gospel; we can stand up to false teachers whose goal seems to be to build their personal prestige and bank accounts because the Holy Spirit living in us is stronger than anything they can throw at us. Those who reject the truth of Jesus, especially that He came in the flesh have one measuring stick for all things: what does the world think? How will the world perceive what we’re doing? Those who follow Christ should have one measuring stick also: what does God want? We seek to follow God and do what He wants. We know that God hears us. Those who don’t know God refuse to listen to those of us who are seeking to follow Him. We can know who’s following truth and who’s guided by a spirit of error based on their response to us when we live in tune with God. If that sounds like an arrogant statement, and it does to me, realize that John was unimpeachable as a witness to Jesus. He had walked with Him. Did he misunderstand Jesus? Yes. Lots of times, but still, he understood what it meant to follow Christ. I can’t remember the author or the story, but the author said “don’t quate what’s happening now to this book.” Someone responded, as a joke if I understand correctly, “Oh what do you know about that?” Sadly, as John taught, and as others taught based on John’s teaching, false prophets refused to listen to his teaching, as if he didn’t know anything about Jesus. They might spin their wacky theories about Jesus not coming in the flesh, which was part of the gnostic approach, but John had seen Him, touched Him, and lived with Him for three years. John knew the humanity of Jesus and anyone rejecting that was living in the spirit of error.

7. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

And John, knowing Jesus and His teachings, brought the discussion back to love – God’s love. When Jesus taught the disciples how people would know who was following Him, He taught about how much they loved each other. In today’s world, we’ve split up into our own denominations and groups. While we could make a case for the good reasons denominations have formed, the truth is, we don’t love each other the way we should. Apparently, the church at Ephesus had that same problem and John needed to remind them again. We should love each other as Christians. True love comes from God. The only way you can love people with the love that God has for them is when God gives you that love for them. It’s a love that thinks of the needs of others before self. It’s a love that’s willing to give up the temporary pleasures of this world to allow people to experience the amazing love God had for them. If you can’t love others like this, you can’t know God. God is the manifestation of true love in this world. How did He show His love? He sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might experience an amazing relationship with Him. When Jesus came to earth, He gave up everything to live and eventually die among mankind. God has never loved us back, He took the initiative in showing us His love. We need to love others first. We need to love others sacrificially. When Jesus came, He was the propitiation for our sins – He paid the penalty for our sins and it is because Jesus paid this penalty that we can find favor with God. I have no doubt that John had the parable of the good Samaritan in mind as he wrote this. He could have said it explicitly: Since God has shown you this amazing love, love that you didn’t deserve, then you need to love others the same way God loves you.

I normally include next week’s Bible readings here, but, as the video explains, I’ve fallen behind. When I get my readings back on track, I’ll start including them again.

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Love One Another as God Loved You – 1 John 3:11-24

What’s the test of our Christian faith? John echoed Jesus when he wrote in this section that our faith revolves around love: God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for others because of God. John also reminded us that our love shouldn’t just be seen in what we say, but also in what we do. As I write this, we’re dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be easy to hide away and do nothing. While much can be said for the truth that this is the best practice, there are ways we can help even when we’re self-isolating. So, isolate, but reach out, especially through technology.

11. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.

If you search the history of God working in the world, He has called on people to love one another. This isn’t just the history of how God dealt with people since the time of Jesus, in the example that John used, he showed that Cain hated his brother and killed him because he was wicked. And how do we know that he was wicked, he didn’t love his brother. He killed him because his own actions and attitudes were evil, because he was of the devil, while Abel was righteous before God. As you look at that stoy in Genesis, there’s a hint of the issue when we read that Abel brought an offering of the best of the flock, and Cain brought an offering, too. I believe that Abel gave of his best out of the joy of giving, while Cain brought something because he wanted to get on God’s good side. He used his offering to manipulate God and failed. That failure enraged him and he killed Cain. (I should note that a lot of that is my interpretation and that anything that goes beyond the Bible is subject to revision.)

13. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. 14. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

I run into Christians who are dumbfounded when they meet non-Christians who don’t like them. They wonder what they did wrong to cause the problem. The truth is that their lives are built on hate for anything that has to do with God. They won’t acknowledge any good thing you’ve done, even if it’s to help them, and they’ll hold all of our failings, and, especially, all the failings of other Christians they’ve met or heard about against us. As a writer I’ve befriended many people who aren’t Christians and I can tell that somehow they’ve been hurt by the church in the way they vent their anger about God’s people. Usually, if I ask, which isn’t often, I get a “well, not you, but those other people I don’t know…” Not always. There is a lot of hate for Christians in the world. Sadly, many of those who hate the Church and God’s people do so because they’ve been hurt by the church or someone in the church. So, when they world hates you, don’t be surprised. At the same time treat those who rant against God and God’s people with as much grace as possible. God can still work on them.
The defining factor fo those who follow Christ, at least according to Jesus (John 13:35) is that we love our brothers (and sisters) in Christ. John uses that same idea to note that we pass from death unto life when we love our brothers and sisters. Love is a defining picture of the follower of Christ. If we live in God’s love for our brothers, we have eternal life. Conversely, if we hate our brothers and sisters, we’re dwelling with death. Perhaps John remembered the Sermon on the Mount when he said that the person who hates his brother is a murderer. Whether one murders the brother physically or spiritually through hate, the person who practices hate doesn’t have eternal life in them.

16. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

How do we recognize the love of God? We recognize and begin to understand God’s love as we think about Jesus giving up His life for us. He died on the cross to take the penalry for sin on Himself. John noted that we should be willing to sacrifice our own lives for our brothers and sisters just like Jesus did. According to the commercial, people will do a lot of things for a certain kind of ice cream bar, so let me ask what you’d do for a brother in need. John dealt with that in upcoming verses.

17. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

As I write this, the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. So much of the world is in need because of jobs lost as people were forced out of jobs when their work sites closed down. There’s fear and hoarding going on. John’s response today would be the same as his response to the needs of his day: if you have something to share, especially with the brothers, share it. In some ways, we’ve seen the worst of humanity during this time: a man who bought over 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and then sought to sell it for outlandish prices. People hoarding water and toilet paper – for whatever reason on those two things. People buying all the meat. While the man who bought the hand sanitizer ended up donating it to various agencies after a huge uproar, that wasn’t his original plan. Meanwhile, we’ve seen some of the best of humanity at the same time. People (and churches) buying groceries for those in need or people who can’t get out of the house, a CEO of a restaurant chain giving up their salary and bonuses for their employees, and numerous other small acts of caring and concern that will never make the news. If you act like the first group, how can the love of God be in you? If all you do is think about yourself, you obviously don’t have the mind of Christ who gave up everything to come to earth and die on the cross for us. If you have something, then, as my wife has said on numerous occasions, realize that God gave it to you so that you can share with others in their time of need. If you can turn your back on people who have nothing, how does God live in you? John’s admonittion is much like James’s here when James said not to tell someone to go in peace – warmed and filled – without doing anything to meet their needs. If you say you love someone or something, then back it up by how you live. Live generously with all God has given you. Our love for others should imitate the love God has for us, and we must remember that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) My wife knows I love her not just because of the things I say, but because of the things I do to work with her as we walk this earth together. Our love for others should embody that principal.

19. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 20. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

While our actions don’t make us good enough for God to love us, because He loved us long before we turned to Him, the fact that our lives have changed and reflect the love of God to others is one way we know that we are “of the truth” or in a loving relationship with God. In our evangelism program we ask people to consider the question, “Why should God let you into heaven.” The answer, which should be obvious, has nothing to do with our works, but has everything to do with the fact that Jesus died on the cross to take away our sin. At the same time, though, the Christian should recognize that if he or she is really of the truth, really part of God’s family, then our lives should reflect God’s love to others. It’s an interesting phenomenon, though, that as we grow closer to God, we recognize more about our sin; we realize what we’re doing wrong. And so, rather than revel in God’s love for us, our hearts condemn us and we begin to seek ways to gain the assurance of God’s love. Our heart fails, but the great truth of God, the central core of Christian faith is that God knows and loves us. We can’t do anything to earn His love. When our heart may condemn us for what we say, think, or do, or what we don’t say, think, or do, we need to recognize that God, who is greater than our heart, knows all things and still loves us. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing we do can surprise God and cause Him to rethink His relationship with us.

21. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. 22. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

I love that John reminds his brothers and sisters that He loves them at this point. After dealing with the concern about our hearts condemning us and giving us the key to overcoming that condemnation, John pointed out that if our hearts don’t condemn us, it’s because of what God has done and we can have confidence because of Him. Our hearts shouldn’t condemn us, but that’s not because we’re perfect, or, as some would describe it, living in sinless perfection, it’s because of our relationship with God. My wife doesn’t have a perfect husband, but he never doubts her love even when he messes up because of the relationship he has with her based on God’s love. This confidence allows us to come before Him in prayer, expecting God to answer those prayers. Now, here’s the thing: John mentioned in the last part of this verse that we keep His commandments and do things that please Him. If we do, our prayers will reflect our love for Him, our obedience, and a lifestyle that wants God’s best for ourselves and others. What does that mean for us as we pray. Janis Joplin sang a prayer song designed to ridicule the prayers of those who seem to think that God’s a gameshow host leading His people in the new game, “The Prayer is Right.” In this song, she asked for a Mercedes Benz, a color TV, and a night on the town. She came up with good justification for each of those requests. And let’s face it, some of the teaching on prayer sounds a lot like this Joplin satire on prayer. The truth about prayer is that as we become more aligned with God’s will in our lives, our prayers begin to reflect not our desires for stuff, but God’s desires for a lost and hurting world.

23. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

John was around when Jesus distilled all the commandments into two practices: love God and love your neighbor. When John said, “…because we keep His commandments…” in the previous verse, people attuned to the Law might have been thinking about ten of them or even over 600 of them. Here, her clarified that by recalling the teaching of Jesus. While he changes the wording from “love God” to “believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ,” we believe on His name because of our love for God who brought us forgiveness of sins through Jesus. You can’t really believe on the name, or, in terms more closely aligned to the language of today, believe in the person and nature of Jesus Christ, without loving God for what He did sending Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins. So, the commandments involve loving God and acting on His love for us, and loving others. That was the command of Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40. John reminds us that if we keep those commandments, it’s not that we love some far distant God who may or may not have time for us; it’s that we are living in Him and He’s living in us through His Spirit. He lives in us and walks with us 24/7. We can’t hide from God when we sin, because He dwells in us and He begins the process of forgiveness immediately, even before we recognize that we’ve sinned. God loves us. As one commentator put it, He’s crazy about us. As we continue to live and work in this world, let’s walk in the love God has for us and share His love with all the people we meet. The world has enough sourpusses, let’s show them and everyone else the love of God.

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God’s Children Don’t Keep on Sinning – 1 John 3:1-10

John has a simple test to determine if someone is a follower of Christ or not. If they keep sinning in their thoughts, words, and deeds, then they obviously don’t have the love of the Father in them. It’s important to realize that the Greek construction of this concept doesn’t talk about a person sinning once or twice; it deals with people who sin and keep on sinning, living as though they were acceptable to God even though they disobeyed Him. Does God still love someone like that? Yes. If they’re God’s children, would they live like that? No. I believe that when the Bible speaks about Jesus taking away our sins, it also means that He takes away those behaviors that are sinful. We continue in sin because we’re in open rebellion to God. Our own actions prove the lack of relationship with God.

On the other hand, if we do have a relationship with God, our righteous living will show that also. This doesn’t mean self-righteousness. It doesn’t mean making it a point to let everyone know how righteous we are. It means that we’re living humbly in a right relationship with God and our actions will change to reflect the character of God in our lives.

1. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

I can’t help but think that John continued to be amazed at the magnitude of God’s love for us. Paul talked about how God adopted us as His children. Under the Roman system, a man could disown his natural born children, but couldn’t disown adopted children. While John didn’t dwell on adoption as his theme, he marveled, and expected his readers to understand and marvel as well, about the amazing love of God that allowed us to be called His children. Because we’re God’s children, we aren’t in synch with the world. The world doesn’t know us; we aren’t on the list of the popular people, society turns away – all because they don’t know our Father. In the world, you’re often judged on who you know, and your family lineage. As followers of Christ, we are, as the Sidewalk Prophets stated so beautifully in the song, “Come to the Table,” a motley crew of misfits with no family lineage that they recognize. But to those of us who are in Christ, we are the children of God the Father – the Almighty! the Creator! the Redeemer!

2. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

At this point, John reminded us of our eternity. I’ve heard a lot of descriptions of what eternity or even heaven will be like. John reminded us that we don’t know what it will be like, we don’t even know what we’ll be like. What we do know is that when Jesus comes again, we’ll be like Him. We’ll see Jesus as He really is. We don’t need to know the future, we just need to know who holds the future. If God holds the future, and He does, we can rest assured that all will be well. We don’t know the future, but we know that we shall be like Him and that we shall recognize Him and see Him, Jesus, as He truly is in all of His glory.

3. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

This verse begs a question: why would anyone need to purify themselves if they’re already pure. I’ve seen people attack the idea that we’re sinners because of verses like this. In truth, God sees us as pure from sin because of the sacrifice of Jesus. At the same time, the truth is that because we recognize we we are in Christ, that recognition leads us want our earthly lives to reflect the purity that God sees in us to others on this earthly plane. We want people to see us like God sees us and so, we seek to become better in all we do. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to do anything that would make other people think poorly of God because I did it.

4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

There’s a teaching going around that because we’re in Christ, we can’t sin. Because we’re under grace our sin doesn’t matter. John, and I will reiterate a point I’ve mentioned many times before, walked with Jesus and was taught personally by Jesus; he was personally rebuked by Jesus for his sins, noted that anyone who sins goes against the law. Jesus not only took away the penalty for our sins, though, He takes away our desire for sin and that’s seen in the feelings of guilt when we know we do something contrary to God’s plan. If you live in Christ, you’re not going to be able to continue living in a sinful condition. We purify oursleves (vs. 3) and God keeps working in us to take away our sin. The picture of committing sin here in verses 4-6 is someone who continues in sin, not someone who commits one sin and then repents. If you abide in Christ, you won’t continue living in sin. If you keep living in sin, then it’s obvious that you really haven’t seen Him from a spiritual perspective, nor have you known Him. John’s really blunt about things here: if you sin, and you keep on sinning, it shows that you don’t have a relationship with Christ. The question each of us must ask is what’s more important: God’s desires for us or what we think we think we want.

7. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

Some people like to make life complicated and see it in shades of gray. The truth is that someone who does good things, someone who lives and acts righteously does so because they are righteous, or in a right relationship with God. On the other hand, someone who lives in a constant state of sin not only isn’t in a right relationsihp with God, their motivation comes from the devil. When Jesus enters our lives, He destroys that motivation and those works. We don’t do the right things because we’re forced to, we do the right things; we live righteously because we want to. When Jesus destroys the works of the devil, He restores a sense of righteousness in us.

9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

When John talked about someone who is born of God not sinning, he spoke of the idea of living a life immersed in sin. It’s not that we can’t commit the occasional si, it’s that the seed of God in us pulls us toward good. We’d be miserable in our sinful condition and our natural response to that misery would be to turn back to God and seek forgiveness, not continue sinning. And John makes it clear here: if you don’t live righteously and if you don’t love your brother, you are not of God. (And, just to be clear, John coud have included sisters in this discourse.) If you are practicing racism, sexism, classism, or any other kind of “ism” that lives by hate, you’re not coming from God, you’re coming from your father the devil. One of the hallmarks of the Christian faith is the love that Christians have for each other.

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