The Unrepentant

Psalms

Reading the Word

Psalm 7:12–17 (ESV)

12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; 13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. 14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. 17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is often said that God would never punish a person because God is loving and forgiving. Well, it is true that God is both loving and forgiving. He calls on us to repent and turn to his Son who was offered as a sacrifice for our sin. God, in his love, sent his Son into the world to die for the sins of mankind. What amazing love! Through Jesus Christ the sinner finds forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God.

However, the Bible is also clear that God will judge and punish all sin. Some believe that because they have prospered or not suffered immediate consequences despite their wrongdoings that they are okay, but one day God’s wrath will be poured out. Every sin will be judged by God and for those who have not repented and found refuge in Christ, the wrath of God awaits. Those who have found forgiveness can rejoice in the name of the Lord!

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A Relationship Test

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Reading the Word

1 John 5:13–21 (ESV)

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Understanding the Word

John summarizes his reason for writing this letter in 1 John 5:13 when he says “I write these things to you who believe…that you may know that you have eternal life.” The purpose is assurance. It is being able to know for certain one’s relationship with God.

In these verses, John uses the word “know” seven times. Throughout the letter he uses it forty times. It is the theme of the letter.

Applying the Word

Most people believe that they will one day stand before God and give an account for their lives. They hope that they have done enough good things to outweigh the bad so that God will grant them an afterlife of eternal bliss rather than one of punishment.

The Bible tells us that we can know even now if we have eternal life with God. 1 John gives us tests that can help us know where we stand. A summary of the tests are as follows:

  1. Do you believe the right things about Jesus and do you trust in him? He was the Son of God born in the flesh and died as a sacrifice for our sins.
  2. Are you obedient to the word of God? This is not a way to gain favor with God, but a response to his grace.
  3. Do you love fellow believers? The one who has been given new life from the God of love should be loving also.

We do not have to wait until we die to know if our relationship with God is as it should be. The Bible helps us to know even now. Take the time to read through 1 John again so that you may know where you stand.

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Do You Have the Son?

1 John 54 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 John 5:1–12 (ESV)

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Understanding the Word

In the Gospel of John, Jesus states, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Here, John makes the same point. Eternal life comes through Jesus, the Son of God. We must believe that he is the Christ and trust in him.

Notice that John mentions love for others and obedience as assurances of our salvation, but they are not the means to obtain it. Salvation comes through faith alone in Christ alone.

Applying the Word

Christianity is not about being a good person so one day you will go to heaven. The Bible tells us in many places that we simply are not good enough. We all fall short regularly.

Christianity is about finding new life through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world to save people who could not save themselves. He died as a sacrifice for sinners and those who believe this and trust in his sacrifice are born again to a new life. It is the new life that results in a change in our hearts. We love others and we want to obey God.

Do you have the Son?

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God Is Love

1 John 48 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 John 4:7–21 (ESV)

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Understanding the Word

In this passage, John returns to the theme of love. Now he tells his readers that they ought to love one another because they have been born of God and “God is love”. John goes on to give examples of the love of God.

God’s love is evident when we consider that he sent his only Son into the world for our benefit. Jesus died as the payment for our sin so that we might have eternal life through him. If God loved us in this way, we should love one another in the same way.

Applying the Word

The statement that “God is love” is often understood as if you could reverse it and say that “love is God”. This is not true. What John is telling us is that God is, by very nature, loving. We see his love on display in the gospel.

However, love is not God. While it is true that God is loving, it is also true that God is more than this. He is just, holy, righteous, etc. He is a personal being, not just a concept or moral category.

Those who have been born of God should display the likeness of their Father, just as we resemble our earthly fathers. One of the key characteristics of God is love, so it should be evident in our lives also.

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Test the Spirits

Open Book Bible

Reading the Word

1 John 4:1–6 (ESV)

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Understanding the Word

John tells his readers that there will be false teachers who will come. Believers need to know how to test the teachings of these teachers so they can avoid them.

How does a person identify a false teacher? Do they affirm or deny the truth regarding Jesus Christ? Specifically, do they hold to the truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world as a man? If not, they are false teachers and should not be listened to.

Applying the Word

Every generation of Christians faces false teaching that claims to be Christian, but is not. For John, Gnosticism and the belief that matter was by nature evil caused many to deny that the Son of God could become a man. How could sinless perfection take on a physical body if the physical world is evil? Of course, the Bible teaches that the physical world is God’s creation. Evil springs from our sinful hearts, not the world outside of us.

Many false teachings that distort the gospel are present today. Many are willing to admit that Jesus was a man, but they deny he was divine. Others teach that everyone will be saved because a loving God would never send anyone to hell, even though Scripture plainly says otherwise. And still others teach that if you just have enough faith nothing bad will ever happen to you. You will have great wealth, and good health, and God will give you your heart’s desires. Again, contrary to what Scripture says about taking up your cross and following Jesus.

We have God’s word as recorded in Scripture so that we may know the truth. May we test the spirits behind every teaching we hear by that word and may we never be deceived by those who would lead us astray.

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Love Your Brother

1 John 316 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 John 3:11–24 (ESV)

11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Understanding the Word

In this passage John focuses on our love for others. He specifically focuses on our love for fellow believers. This is the second time he has touched on this issue in this short letter, which tells us just how important our love is.

Applying the Word

Why is it so important for us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ? John tells us it is a sure sign that we have passed out of death and into life. It tells us that we are of the truth and that we have the life-giving Spirit residing within us.

Christianity is not a self-focused religion. When we come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, he calls us to lay down our lives in service to others. This is such a contrast to the natural ways of the world where others are seen as a source for our personal happiness. The world tells us that if others do not make us happy or if we do not like them to write them out of our lives. Christ tells us to love them by serving them. That is what Christ has done for us and that is what the Spirit living within the believer directs us to do.

Most of us have memorized John 3:16 at one time or another. Why not memorize another 3:16 verse from the Apostle John: 1 John 3:16?

1 John 3:16 (ESV)

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

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Do Not Love the World

1 John 215 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 John 2:12–17 (ESV)

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Understanding the Word

John uses three terms in these verses to speak to his readers. He uses “little children”, “fathers”, and “young men”. There is some debate if John is dividing his hearers into three groups based on age or if this list designates two groups. If this is the case his words can be summarized as “my little children, both young and old”.

Regardless of how you divide it, John’s point is the same. He is addressing all ages and telling them that because they know God they ought not love the world.

Applying the Word

When a person comes to God there is a life change. Our sins are forgiven and we enter into a new relationship with God, but that is not all. God begins a work in us to change us from the inside out. Our desires and passions change. The things we once loved are not so important to us and the things of God, that were once meaningless, become the most important things. As our love for the things of this world diminish and our love for God grows, we have assurance that God is at work in our lives.

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A New Command

Love your brother

Reading the Word

1 John 2:7–11 (ESV)

7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Understanding the Word

John begins by telling his readers that he is writing a commandment that is not new, it is one that they have had since the beginning. It is part of their Old Testament Scriptures. It is the command to love one another. This teaching traces all the way back to the writings of Moses (Leviticus 19:18).

John then says that in another sense the commandment is new because Jesus has shown exactly what this love should look like. His life was spent as a model of sacrificial love and then he called his followers to live in the same way (cf. John 13:34).

Applying the Word

Love for our “brothers” (fellow believers) is a mark of the true follower of Jesus Christ. Just as John has already told us that authentic believers do not continue to live in sin nor disobedience to the word of God. So it is also true that we cannot hate our Christian brothers and sisters and claim to walk in the light. Take a few minutes to look up the following verses and notice how the Apostle John emphasizes loving fellow believers: John 13:34; 15:17; 1 John 3:11, 23; 1 John 4:7, 11; 2 John 5.

Clothe Yourselves with Humility

sheep

Reading the Word

1 Peter 5:1–5 (ESV)

1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Understanding the Word

Peter now shifts his focus from telling his readers how to live in the world with unbelievers to giving them instructions on how to live with one another. He instructs the “elders” to shepherd the flock of God. The picture here is that of shepherds caring for their sheep. The elders, as we learn elsewhere in Scripture (e.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9), are to be the spiritually mature who are able to guard the true gospel from corruption and care for the less mature. They are not to rule over the flock, but live as examples.

Peter also gives instructions to the “younger”, that is, the less mature believers. He calls on them to be subject, or submit, to the elders. In essence, he calls on them to follow the leadership of the elders.

This passage ends with a call to both the elders and the younger to live in humility toward one another. There is no place for one feeling superior over another for any reason.

Applying the Word

Humility is contrary to our nature. It is seen as the opposite of self-esteem. We embrace the opposite and call it self-confidence. But in the Church, there is no place for one person or group feeling superior to another. In Christ, all are children of God and stand on equal footing as heirs to the kingdom. May Christians never allow things like race, social class, education, or roles in the church to divide the people of God. May we live in humility as we serve one another through the grace of God.

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Love to the End

 

theend

Reading the Word

1 Peter 4:7–11 (ESV)

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Understanding the Word

The end of all things is at hand.  How many times have you heard that in your lifetime? It seems like an odd statement from Peter. However, in truth, the end has been at hand since Christ left this earth and promised to return. We wait expectantly for that day, which could happen at any moment.

Applying the Word

What would you do if you knew the end was near? Spend your last moments fulfilling as much pleasure as you could? Spend as much time with loved ones as possible?

God’s word tells us what our focus should be: love. We should love one another earnestly through serving one another and using the things God has blessed us with for the benefit of others. Sadly, not many of us think this way. Instead we seek to put ourselves first in every situation.

Well, Peter tells us that the end is near. Soon we will stand before our God and Savior. Let us seek to honor him by loving one another until the time is complete.

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