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Only He satisfies

Psalm 90:14  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Where do you find pleasure?  There are so many places in this world to look for fulfillment, but only one satisfies.  The things of this world are vain, fleeting, finite, and altogether incapable of filling the void in our lives.  They are limited and we’re just left wanting more, which leads us to continually search for that “one thing”.

The Psalmist knew the key to true joy that satisfies.  The Lord’s love endures forever, it doesn’t fade, it doesn’t rust or wear out, it won’t leave us.  We can be glad all our days if the place we look for fulfillment is in the Lord.  In fact, this joy does not have to be sought.  It’s a byproduct of seeking God first in our lives (Matthew 6:33).

When we prioritize God first, He adds to us blessings beyond what we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and the things this world has to offer seem like nothing in comparison.

 

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New Law or Gospel Freedom?

Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

What is Christianity all about?  Have we vowed to follow Christ only to replace the Old Testament law with new law?  Is this new life just about more rule-following?  Observing some of today’s churches, you would think so!  Sermons so often focus on behavior modification or bettering the life of the Christian through specific actions. We trade in the true power of the gospel for the belief that being a good Christian means listening to the right music, wearing the right T-shirts, not swearing or drinking, and being “nice.” Congregants lack the joy of Christ because they fail to keep up with all of the things they are “supposed” to do.  Moralistic, therapeutic deism fails to deliver.

The truth is that no formula for behavior modification will ever work because the root of sin is in our hearts.  No amount of keeping up with strict law or disciplines or rituals will keep us from being what we are: fallen and sinful.  Religion seeks to justify the believer through their actions. True justification comes from Christ (Romans 4:25). Only He can liberate us from sin.

It can make us feel good for a while to try to earn our own merit, but in the end we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). We’ll never be good enough, do enough, deprive ourselves enough to be free from sin. If we fully rely on Jesus it means we trust that His sacrifice was good enough, that we don’t need to be under the law in order to receive forgiveness from God for our transgressions, that He died once, and for all (Hebrews 7:27-28).  Nothing we could ever do could make Him love us more.  And nothing we fail to do could ever make Him love us less.

 

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That you may know

1 John 5:13-21   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. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.  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. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.  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.  We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  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. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

What do you believe?  Where do you put your trust?  You may say that you believe Jesus has the power of eternal life, but if you don’t act as though He does, you’re not really believing.  John didn’t write his first letter to non-believers so that they would see the truth about Jesus.  He wrote it to Christians, so that they would actually believe what they say they believe.

It’s one thing to have the belief that Jesus died for your sins, one thing to go to church and fellowship with other Christians.  But it takes more to actually live it out.  If you know, without a doubt, that Jesus saves, then don’t ever worry about whether you’re forgiven.  If you know it to be true, don’t act timidly when He calls you to do something.  If you know He has all things in His hands, act like it.

John made this point by bringing prayer into the discussion.  True belief brings confidence and boldness.  Are you praying with confidence that God can answer you?  With boldness that He will hear you and give you your requests?  Pray in His name, according to His will, and He is able to provide all things.  There’s nothing He can’t do.  Do you believe it?

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Testimony Concerning the Son of God

1 John 5:6-12  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. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 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. 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. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Are you ever afraid to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with someone?  Are you ever timid to tell what you’ve seen and heard concerning the Son of God?  Don’t feel too bad, you’re not alone.  But we’re all called to share the Good News.  It’s our job to proclaim it to all the world.  But there’s more good news, the results don’t all rest on us.

The thing about being fearful when it comes to witnessing is that most of the work is actually done by the Holy Spirit, not by us.  There’s no reason to be shy about sharing when we realize that we’re just a vessel used by God to reach other people with His message.  He works in the heart of the person who hears the gospel and He works in you and me when we’re telling them.  The Spirit testifies and He does it in the hearer and through the teller.  Does that make you feel more at ease?

When you submitted your life to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit made His home inside you and you are a walking, talking testimony for Jesus.  The Spirit declares the Good News.  We just need to be available to make it happen.  There’s no need to be afraid.  It’s not all up to us how things turn out.  It’s just our job to speak up and let the world know that Jesus is the hope for all mankind.

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Overcoming the World

1 John 5:1-5   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. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Our faith is the victory that has overcome the world.  And what is it that comes from faith?  Good works.  A natural response to faith is obedience.  When we know God and experience His love for us, we want to keep His commandments and follow everything He says to do.  If we remain faithful in this, nothing can stop us.

This passage says that everyone who has been reborn overcomes the world.  Are you overcoming the world?  Have you taken the time to actually evaluate whether or not you’re overcoming the world?  What does it even mean to overcome the world?  Does that mean we don’t ever fall into temptation or that we don’t sin?

Sadly, most of us don’t think in terms of victory when we look at our lives.  We’re not operating in our spiritual gifts or showing any fruit out of the faith we proclaim.  Some of us aren’t even showing love to our fellow Christians, let alone to the people out in the world.

But we’ve been equipped.  We’ve got the victory already if we’ll just do the next thing God calls us to do.  That’s what obedience is.  It’s not some lofty, unachievable goal.  Obedience is doing the next thing God calls you to do.  And when you’ve done it, do the next thing He calls you to do.  Then the next.  Obedience is a lot like walking.  It’s one foot in front of the other.

Walk in victory, knowing that Jesus has already won the battle.  The odds are in your favor.  You can’t lose.

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God is love

1 John 4:7-21   Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 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. 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. 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. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

You’ve heard the quote “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary”.  While that instruction falls a bit short in regards to how to witness for Christ, there is something to be said about what our actions show the people around us.  There are some who don’t know the name of Christ.  They’ve never experience Him and never had an encounter with anyone who wanted to really share His love for them.  For those people, how we represent Jesus makes all the difference in the world.  We’re all they know of Him.

This passage from John’s letter brings up the point that no one can see God, but they can see us.  And if God loved us enough to forgive us our sins, we ought to love those around us so that they can experience that forgiveness too.  There are opportunities every day to love other people for the glory of God.  Even in the little things that we so often overlook, we can be representing our Lord.  How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ?  It may very well have been through observing the kindness of a Christian.

Let’s not just love with our words, but with our actions.  Let’s not forget the love that God has already shown us and our obligation to pass it along to others.  There are lives on the line and our love plays a key role in how the world responds to Jesus.  Take the opportunities presented to you today, tomorrow, and each day to show love to someone else.  You never know what effect it can have on them.

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Test the spirits

1 John 4:1-6   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. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 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. 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. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 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.

In a world that’s full of so much spiritual talk, how can we know who to believe?  The truth is, a lot of Christians will believe anything that comes from someone claiming to be a Christian.  Just walk into a Christian bookstore and take a look around.  You’ll find books ranging all across the spectrum, many contradicting each other.  But how do we know what is right?

The Bible gives one criteria to follow when testing the spirits of the world.  Whether we’re listening to the philosophy of Oprah or Osteen, MacArthur or Bell, the one question is this:  Do they claim that Jesus is God who came in the flesh?  That’s the most important question.  People may disagree on some doctrines or on some practices, but the one thing that makes a belief system something other than Christianity is their view of Christ.

You’ll see some “denominations” in the world that sound very Christian yet deny that Jesus was God in the flesh.  Simply put, that means they’re not Christian.  Test the beliefs of any religious organization on this one thing.  If they deny Christ, flee and never return.  Jesus is God who came to earth as a man, shed His blood and gave His life for the forgiveness of sins, and then He resurrected from the dead and ascended back into heaven where He now reigns.  Upon that truth our entire existence revolves.  Without it, there is not hope.  Without that one belief, there is not Christianity.

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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).


Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known