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Love one another

1 John 3:11-24   For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 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. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 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? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 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. 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.

Love is more than a word.  It’s more than a feeling.  Love is a constant decision, an intentional abandonment of selfish desires for the sake of someone else’s good.  Love requires something beyond what we can manage in our own human condition.

The thing about real love is that it’s so different from anything we’ve been conditioned to recognize that most of us don’t even know how it works.  We think love just means we tell someone nice things or that we give some gifts.  But true love is sacrifice, and sometimes that means it hurts.  Sinful humans don’t want to hurt for someone else, so it’s not our inclination to love truly.  Only the Holy Spirit working in and through us can enable us to love others like Jesus said to.

Love others like you love yourself?  How is that possible?  Or how about this one?  Husbands, love your wives like Christ loved the Church and gave His life for her.  Any one of you loving like that?  It’s what we’re commanded to do.  No less.

We’re not doing anyone any good if we’re just saying we love.  We’re not providing a good witness for Christ, nor are we having any effect on people’s lives for the kingdom.  We’re just talking.  And talk isn’t enough.  Love.  Love truly.  Give of yourself for the sake of others.

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Children of God

1 John 2:28-3:10   And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Are you doing what you ought to be doing?  How are your actions speaking to other people about Christ?  Are they giving a good witness or repelling people from the gospel?

This part of John’s letter is a powerful thought about our obedience.  Not only is he saying that followers of Jesus should do good, he’s saying that if you don’t do good, you’re not a follower of Christ.  You get that?  John’s saying that if you don’t do good, you’re on the opposite team.  If you’re not for Christ you’re against Him.  There’s no middle ground.  If you continue to practice sin regularly, you’re not a Christian.  Ouch.

We all need to take this passage to heart and assess ourselves from the inside out.  Are we really practicing righteousness?  When we received Christ we were empowered to walk with God and obey Him in a way that was impossible before our salvation.  But are we doing it?  Are we walking the walk?

No one who is born of God (reborn, we would say) makes a practice of sinning.  Are you a child of God?  Are you acting like it?

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The New Commandment

1 John 2:7-14  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. 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. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 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.

I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
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.
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.

What is this old commandment that’s a new commandment that’s really an old commandment?  What does John refer to?  He is speaking of the commandment given to him personally from Jesus himself.  Love God and love others. What was given in the Old Testament as Law (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18) was confirmed in the New Testament by Jesus as being relevant even after His coming (Matthew 22:34-40).

Notice John’s reference to darkness and light, just like how he speaks in his presentation of the Gospel (John 1:1-13). He’s presenting a contrast for us to realize that the world’s darkness can’t overcome the light of Jesus.  When we obey the command to love God and love others, we shine a light in the darkness so bright that it can’t but be seen.  It’s a shining city upon a hill, giving off a beacon of light for others to recognize.

When we love, we show God to the world.  When we serve, we show them the character of Christ and glorify Him.  When we obey, we do a great work of evangelism (Matthew 5:16).


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Walking in the light

1 John 1:5-10  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

One of the things that can most negatively affect our relationship with God and with other people is unconfessed sin.  If we hold onto the idea that we’ve done nothing wrong when in reality we’ve offended God with our thoughts and actions, we’re putting a barrier between Him and ourselves.  The same is true when we act as though we’ve not wronged others.  We can’t have true fellowship when we’re walking in a lie.

But if we confess our sins to the Lord, He’s not standing by waiting to strike us down with lightning; He’s ready to forgive us and to cleanse us.  When we’ve been cleansed by God, we’re then enabled to walk in the light.  If we have fellowship with God, we can’t be in the darkness, so it’s also fair to say that if we’re walking in darkness we’re not in fellowship with God.

Where are you right now? Are you walking in the light?  Are your relationships reflective of God’s work in you?  Or are you in broken relationships with other people and a broken fellowship with God?  The good news is that at any time we can turn to Him and admit our sins.  He’ll wash us clean with the blood of Christ, just like He took a big eraser and wiped out all of our wrongdoing to give us a fresh start.  He wants to do that for us.  The Good News is for believers too.

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The Word of Life

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

The natural response to the joy we receive in Christ is to share it.  How could we, knowing that we have experienced new life in the Son of God, keep that to ourselves?  We should be overflowing with joy, ready to burst if we don’t share it.

John was among the apostles who walked with Jesus while He was here on this earth.  He writes in his first letter to the churches in Asia Minor that he wants them to share in the fellowship he and others have with God through Christ.  He proclaims all he witnessed with his own eyes, all he heard with his own ears, so that the joy of others might be made full.  He’s not willing to keep it all to himself.  What he was sharing was life.

Jesus is the Word of life and He made Himself known to mankind.  John was there when Jesus was present in the flesh, God incarnate sharing life with other people.  John knew that real life is in Jesus and in this he found his joy.  He also knew that his joy would be made all the more complete if he told others about the Word.  Notice his motive explained in verse 4, that “our” joy may be made complete.

Jesus is life.  If you’ve experience new life in Him, share it with everyone around you, so that they will have joy AND so that your joy would be made more complete.  If you haven’t experienced the life-giver, why not seek Him out?  Find out what this life is that others are talking about.  Ask God to reveal Jesus to you and make Him real to you.  He will.

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Do Not Love the World

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

What’s more important; the things in your life or your relationship with God?  Before you answer that, pause.  It’s easy to jump at answering what we know we’re supposed to say, but take a moment.  Think about what really matters in your life.  How do you spend your money?  Your time?  What do you pursue?  Now is your answer still the same?

It’s tempting to be overtaken by our flesh, to give into every craving we have for pleasure or entertainment, or material things.  But those things won’t last and they don’t matter.  They’ll be here one day and gone the next.  These things rot and rust, they deteriorate and fail to satisfy.  But God is eternal and He’s never going to leave us.  Shouldn’t we put more into walking with Him than we do in walking in worldly desires?

John goes so far in God’s Word to say that if we love this world we don’t love God.  Let that sink in.  If you spend more time trying to gain pleasure out of this life than you do trying to walk in God’s will, then you really don’t love God.  It sounds harsh, but put it in human terms.  If I marry a woman and then spend most of my time trying to make myself happy through every means besides her, then do I really love her?  If God is really our love, then we should be pleased by Him and not need all of the other things of this world.  They won’t matter to us because all we’ll want is more of Him.

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Awe: God in the flesh

Colossians 1:15-20  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Can I be honest with you all? Sometimes I forget what it’s all about. I have this habit of making my life about me and when I do that I get things all twisted. It’s no wonder I sometimes lose my awe for God. I’m focused on myself.

The thing about this world and this life is it’s all about Jesus. If you want to have joy, look to Jesus. If you want peace, look to Jesus. If you’re looking for healing, look to Jesus. If you want to know God – look to Jesus. He’s the image of the invisible God. Everything God the Father wanted us to know of himself, He revealed in the Son (Hebrews 1:2-3).

With everything going on in this busy world, it’s far too easy to get lost in the wrong stuff and forget what really matters. All things were created through Christ, for Christ. It doesn’t matter what people think of you, it doesn’t matter what you have or where you live. What matters is Him.

Take some time and reflect on who Jesus is – God in the flesh. Just think about the fact that the Creator of the universe came down into humankind and revealed himself. You will be in awe.

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Waging war

Ephesians 4:14-16 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

In WWII, the U.S. Army developed a new tactic: airborne operations. Under this new tactic, specially trained units would parachute in behind enemy lines before a major offensive. Their objective was to take strategic pieces of land, such as bridges and roads, and to eliminate particular sections of the enemy defenses. In essence, their job description was to be surrounded by large numbers of enemy troops and accomplish highly dangerous missions. Sounds fun, right?

Well, time to rise and shine, soldier – you are in the Airborne as you read this devotional. Anyone who follows Christ is most definitely behind enemy lines in this world. We are surrounded by a mass of enemy fortifications. Our circumstance in this respect is certain, and there is no way around it. Now we must choose whether to pick up our rifle and march forward, or crouch down in the ditch and pretend there’s not a war going on.

This reality is what Paul speaks to in 4:14. Spiritual warfare is all around us, and is infinitely more real than the game on TV last night. We ought not be shocked when the bullets start flying, not if we accept and understand our position. We’re supposed to be maturing and growing in our stature in Christ. We are supposed to be warriors who see the danger and are engaged in the fight.

The particular battle described here is one of the Church drawing people to Christ through our actions, our true selves, not just the bulletins that we pass out at bake sales. Fighting this battle involves growing into the fullness of Christ (verse 15), so that each member of the body functions properly. Thus, the whole unit becomes effective.

The Christian life is far from passive. Read over this passage several times and grasp the all -encompassing nature of our calling. Make no mistake, the enemy is playing for keeps, and he means to wreck, steal, and devour. Never stop seeking after Christ and allow Him to use you. Become a weapon in His hand.

———-  How are you letting yourself be used by God to wage war against the enemy?

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Nothing can separate us

Romans 8:35-36  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

The life of a Christian isn’t without problems, though some expect it to be.  The truth is we often find ourselves facing more problems because we’re Christians.  We might be persecuted, made-fun-of, mistreated, untrusted, or any number of things because we’ve chosen to follow Christ.  Unlike the rest of the world, though, we’ve got a God on our side who gets us through it all.  Nothing can separate us from His love.

Honestly, when we get down to the bottom of why we’re attacked at times, it’s precisely to try and separate us from God.  The insults, the dangers, the threats, they’re intended to get us to turn away from Him.  Fortunately for us, God is holding onto us tightly through the storms, showing us that He’s on our side.  What the enemy meant to take us from God will in most cases only serve to draw us closer to Him as we seek shelter in Him.  In the trials, His love shows through even more.

———-  When have you found yourself seeking shelter in God’s love because of troubles in your life?

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Awe: The heavens declare

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

God is worthy of our worship. We know it because of who He is and what He’s done, but beyond that, there’s something within us that just knows. We are born with an inward hint pointing us to the greatness of God.

Look around you. Everywhere you look, the fingerprint of God is present. He’s evident in all of creation. The cells that form your body, the stars in the sky, the giant mountains spanning miles and miles of the earth. Even if you’d never heard of God, you’d know there’s Someone and you’d know that He’s deserving of your awe.

The Creator wants you to know Him. He’s got such a desire for you to turn to Him that He built you with a knowledge that He’s there. He wants you to take that knowledge, and the awe that comes with it, and seek Him out.

If you’ve lost your awe for the Creator, spend some time considering the creation. Look at the world around you and realize His greatness.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known