Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday, January 31 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Exodus 11-12; Psalm 23; Matthew 23.
Today's scripture focus is 1 John 2:15.

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Sooooo, how far does one take this?  Obviously if we were not meant to enjoy the beauty of nature, God would not have made Earth (or the rest of the universe, for that matter) beautiful.  And everybody says things like "Oh, I LOVE roses!"  Or gardenias or lilies or lakes or mountains or trees or horses or dolphins... or what have you.  Pretty sure that's not what John is talking about here.  I also say things like "I loved that book" or movie or TV show or song or store or hotel or work of art, and I hear others say things like that all the time as well.  Or "I love spaghetti" or pizza or steak or French fries or waffles or what have you.  (Hmmm, now I'm hungry.)  ALSO, not what John is talking about here.

At my Bible study last week we talked about the things that we allow to become idols in our lives, and I think that is more like what John is getting at. defines idol as:

an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.
an image of a deity other than God.
the deity itself.
any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion: Madame Curie had been her childhood idol.
a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.
a figment of the mind; fantasy.

Boy, taken all together, that includes a lot more things than a graven image that we usually think of when we read the word idol in the Bible.  There isn't anything wrong with enjoying a story, be it in book, film or TV format, or different kinds of music, or enjoying particular kinds of food, or architecture, or art, or nature's beauty.  There also isn't anything wrong with looking up to a singer, actor, athlete, politician, teacher, coach, parent, etc. if they have admirable qualities we appreciate or would like to emulate.  We do need to be careful what, when, where, and how much.

If we allow the love of other things, any other things, to reduce or supplant our desire to walk with God, to spend time with Him, to serve and obey Him, to show His love to those around us, then we have a problem.

A fitness instructor whose Facebook page I follow said something interesting the other day.  I don't remember exactly how she put it, but it had to do with how we can say our priorities are such and such, but how we spend the majority of our time reflects what our priorities truly are.  That gave me something to think about.  Maybe it gives you something to think about too.

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend.

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  1 John 2:16.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Exodus 13-14; Psalm 24; Matthew 24.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday, January 30th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Exodus 9-10, Psalm 22, Matthew 22
Today's scripture focus is 1 John 2:12-14
John MacArthur's sermon on this passage: The Stages of Spiritual Growth
Mark Driscoll's sermon on this passage (and up to v17)

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.

The goal of the Christian is to be like Christ.  It is both a privilege and a responsibility to grow in our Christian walk.  And when we talk about spiritual growth, we're talking about sanctification.

MacArthur describes the three different kinds of sanctification...
There is a kind of positional sanctification that occurs when you're saved, you're set apart from sin into a new state in which you're covered by the righteousness of Christ. That is in the past, that happened at salvation. There is a future kind of sanctification, ultimate sanctification that will take place when you're finally and forever and totally separated from sin in your glorification. So there is a forensic or declared sanctification by which you were set apart from sin in the eyes of God by being covered with the righteousness of Christ. There is a future kind of sanctification by which you will be actually set apart from all sin and become righteous in the perfection of eternity. In the middle there is this process of sanctification that is a increasing separation from sin as you move more into spiritual maturity, increasingly becoming like Jesus Christ. 

This passage shows that there are three levels of spiritual maturity - children, young men and fathers. One important thing to remember is that no matter where we are in our spiritual maturity, that does not change our standing before God in Christ.  At the moment of salvation we were covered by His righteousness and that will never change.

Where we are in our spiritual journey also does not affect His love for us.  He loves us all and He loved us even before we believed in Him.  He will continue to love us throughout our spiritual journey.  There is the saying that is so very true - "There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less".  He loves us.  Period.

Spiritual growth also has nothing to do with the passage of time.  You can have an elderly person that has been a Christian his whole life and he could, sadly, be more spiritually immature than a young and relatively new believer. People who have been believers for a long time should be more spiritually mature than new believers, but that is not necessarily the case.

Spiritual growth is also not necessarily linked to biblical knowledge.  You absolutely need biblical knowledge in order to grow spiritually, but it doesn't do anything for you if it stays in your head.  It needs to penetrate your soul, it needs to be applied, it needs to transform your life.

Spiritual growth is also not necessarily linked to spiritual ministry or how busy you are serving God.  Everything can be done with the wrong motives.

Spiritual growth is also not measure by success or prosperity.

The more we walk in the spirit, the more we grow.  The more we give in to our carnal nature, the more we succumb to temptation - the slower we grow.

The only way to grow in our spiritual life is to grow in the knowledge of the truth of God and apply it to our lives.  The only way to grow physically is to eat and drink healthy food, right?  The same thing is true spiritually - we need to fill ourselves with spiritual food - the Word of God. It is not an option.  It is the only way to grow spiritually.  The only way. And that's why we're doing this blog together!

The epistle was not written to create doubt in the minds of true believers. And for that, I go back again to chapter 5 verse 13 which is the stated purpose of this epistle. "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life." He didn't write this epistle to make you doubt, he wrote the epistle to confirm your salvation because you're going to read this epistle and when he says a true believer acknowledges sin, you're going to say, "I acknowledge my sin." And when he says a true believer acknowledges that Christ is Lord, you're going to say, "I acknowledge that." And when he says a true believer has a desire from the heart to obey God and to love others, you're going to say, "I experience that reality." And so this then is going to confirm your salvation. And what it's going to do is expose those people who deny Christ, expose those people who deny their sin and say they don't sin, expose those people who hate others, expose those people who don't obey the Word of God, expose those people who love the world and the things of the world. That's what it's intended to do. It's intended to help believers to be able to discern....

I want you to affirm your salvation, I want you to know you are forgiven, and I want you to have complete joy. Then he says, "And I want you also to understand that because you're not a spiritual father, or even a spiritual young man in the process of spiritual growth, doesn't mean you're not a Christian." And that's why he transitions into this. Look, there's room in the Kingdom for spiritual babies. There's room in the Kingdom for spiritual young men. There's of course room in the Kingdom for spiritual fathers. That's his point. There is room for stages of growth.

MacArthur says that the children in v12 refers to all believers.  And the apostle John is writing to believers and confirming that all believers are God's children, and we have all been forgiven.  And John makes it clear here, as in numerous other places throughout the Bible, that we are not forgiven because we earn it, or because we've done anything to deserve it, or because we're just so lovable and forgivable.  We are forgiven for His glory.  That this display of His grace would bring glory to His holy name.

After clearing that up in v12, he goes on to explain that even though we are all forgiven, we are all at different places in our spiritual journey.  Just because you're not where you should be spiritually yet, doesn't make you not a Christian.  Don't deny the reality of what God has done in your life.  There is room for different stages of growth.

And then he goes on to describes the different stages of growth.

Spiritual babies know God in the same way a baby knows his/her parents.  It's about the relationship more than the doctrine.  They just love Him, and they know Him even though don't really know that much theologically or doctrinally.  It's about relationship.  But the danger in being a spiritual baby is that they don't have discernment and be easily deceived - just like a young child.  Cults and false teachers prey on spiritual babes.

Then he moves on to young men.  They've grown from simply enjoying the relationship and have moved into theology and doctrine.  They have overcome the evil one (v13)  because they are strong and they are strong because the Word of God abides in them (v14).   They are not led astray by cults or false teachers because they know the Word and they recognize Satan's lies and deceptions.  Young men are still vulnerable to the flesh and to sin, as we all are all life long. But... as you mature there's a decreasing frequency of sin but there's an increasing hatred of sin that makes less sin seem worse. Young men are no longer vulnerable to being led astray by false doctrine.  They delight in the truth.   

But there's one more stage yet.  Fathers have grown from delighting in the relationship, from delighting in the truth to delighting in God who revealed that truth.  You don't just know the doctrine, you know the God who revealed the doctrine.   And in some ways you're back to the relationship again only it's fuller and richer and fully informed by sound doctrine to know the author of that doctrine, to know the God who is behind it. It's to deeply, intimately know God. 

The power behind this progress is the Word of God.

You're not even going to be a spiritual young man if you're not strong in the Word.....You're never going to know the God who wrote the Word until you know what He wrote. And as you go over it and over it and deeper and deeper into it, the character of God begins to develop and to grow and expand. You literally live your life in awe of the wonder of who God is. The Word is life itself. It is the living Word. The Word is life giving. We're begotten again and sanctified by the Word. The Word is life maturing, grow in grace and in the knowledge that the Word provides. The Word is transforming...It is the bread of life by which we live and grow. And the pursuit of all of us is to become that spiritual father and the characteristic of that spiritual father is an intimate knowledge of God like the knowledge that Christ has of His own Father. 

I admit that I was a spiritual babe for most of my life.  Basically until starting this Bible blog journey a few years ago.  And now, finally, together we are being young women of God.  Thank you for joining me on this journey to spiritual maturity!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: 1 John 2:15
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Exodus 11-12, Psalm 23, Matthew 23

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday, January 29th - Sandy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is: Exodus 7,8, Psalm 21, Matthew 21
Today's scripture focus is: 1 John 2:7-11

1 John 2:7-11
English Standard Version (ESV)
The New CommandmentBeloved, 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[a] 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. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him[b] 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.

Again, I must beg forgiveness, but this time, I'm late due to a legitimate emergency of sorts.

Thankfully, (for me), today's passage is straightforward.  Blunt.  Which is sometimes a good thing, especially with a message as important as this.
Love one another.  Bam.  The end.  Bye!

Haha, just kidding.

But really though, if we say we are followers of Jesus, yet aren't showing His love, then we have a serious problem here, folks.  We aren't supposed to ignore sin.  We aren't supposed to condone sin in the ''name of love'', that's not really love.  Love sometimes has to be tough. Sometimes, nay, often, love is, "hey look, I love you, but you can't keep doing this."  That's not easy, but it's still love.  We have a responsibility to strike the precarious balance between being loving, and yet still calling sin, sin.  It's not easy.

So, as straightforward as this passage is, it doesn't mean it's obedience is easy.  Sometimes it can be very difficult to love.  Especially those who don't return the love.  Or outright hate you.

I'm gonna scoot.  I'm not feeling up to snuff today.  I'm sorry for the short (and late) post, and will hopefully be able to explain better (and on time!) next week.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday, January 28- by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Exodus 1,2
Today's scripture focus is 1 John 2:4-6

1 John 2:4-6

If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

Maybe this is a bit of a stretch but as I read these verses, I couldn't help but think about the multiple indoor recesses we had last week. All of them, actually. We were inside 15 out of 15 recesses. I teach grade 1 and (seemingly unending) indoor recess drives us all (teachers and students!) a little crazy. It doesn't take long before rules get broken.

We have some rules in our classroom:

Running is for the gym and for outside - not in our classroom because it is not safe

Keep your hands to yourself - hands are for helping, not for hurting.

Only 1 person on the step for the Smartboard - we need to take turns and too many people touching the Smartboard at the same time might cause it to stop working as it is supposed to.

There are others, but these are always the first ones to get broken during bouts of indoor recess. Of course, all grade 1 friends claim to know the rules but how quickly they forget. Haven't they been reminded on multiple occasions of what is expected? Do they really know the expectations? Do they just choose not to follow them even though they know they should?

Now I realize we are talking about 6 year olds...but how quickly do we forget our rules as well. Do we really know what God expects? Haven't we been reminded about what we should be doing? Do we just choose not to follow these commandments even though we know we should?

How do we show that we know the rules?

MacArthur says:

Now with those words John sums up this very important behavioral test. First the test is stated...the test is stated in verse 3, "By this we know we've come to know Him if we keep His commandments...if we keep His commandments." Last time I told you there are three elements to assurance. There is an element of assurance in saving faith itself. Then there is the internal witness of the Holy Spirit who witnesses with us that we are the children of God. But here the third and most important verification of your salvation is manifest in your life by obedience.

Obedience. When we obey we show that we understand. Again, I know we are not six year olds and that following the rules at recess is not the same as manifesting our salvation by obedience, but I think there are certainly parallels between the two situations. Maybe sometimes (ok often!) I do act like a six year old when I know what God expects of me and I know what the Bible says I should be doing but yet I choose not to. Instead, like a defiant child, I chose to do my own thing. This makes me a liar.

A. Liar. - ouch!

And yet how easy it is to chase after a friend who took the toy you were playing with ... or that push and shove to get it back?? or when you get so excited for your next turn on the smartboard that you just jump on with the 2 others who are using it ... after all everyone's doing it, and not just you, right? My students know the rules, I know they do, but it's so easy to become distracted and "forget" what they are in the midst of everything else going on.


If God was looking for legal absolute conformity to the precepts of Christ, or for that matter to the law of Moses, if God was looking for absolute perfect obedience without a single failure, we're all doomed. That's...that's not going to happen. That's not going to happen. It's not the kind of legal obedience measured against the covenant of law by which we're all condemned. We're not talking about that. We're talking about like what I'd like to call for lack of a better term "gracious obedience." And it's related not to the covenant of law but it's related to the covenant of grace which is the New Covenant...the New Covenant. And listen to what I say. Under the New Covenant a loving sincere obedience full of defects is accepted by God. That's gracious obedience. Did you get that? If you're living under Law, if you're living under the Mosaic economy and trying to earn salvation by maintaining obedience to that Law, there's no tolerances. That Law demands an absolute perfect obedience without a single failure. If you break one law, you're dead. That's not what God is asking. That's not what it means if you keep His commandments.
On the other hand, gracious obedience under the terms of the New Covenant means that God accepts our obedience, a loving, sincere obedience though full of defects. How can He do that? Because all the defects have been paid for by the death of His Son. And now by grace God looks at the heart. And when Paul or you or me says, "I don't do the things I want to do, I do the things I don't want to do. O wretched man that I am," that's reality. We all fall short of perfection. But God is not asking a perfect legal obedience. He's simply asking that we do by His grace and under His grace from the heart the best of which we as fallen people are capable. And God looks at the heart...God looks at the heart.

We are called to live as Jesus did. My students are called to follow classroom rules. It's just not possible all the time to have perfect obedience...for them or for us. We will fail. My students will fail. And yet there is forgiveness. Consequences too...but forgiveness and a chance to get better. Hallelujah for that....and for some outdoor recess this week, ;)

Tomorrow's scripture focus1 John 2:7-11
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Exodus 3, 4, Psalm 41, Mark 13

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013 ~ Roxie

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 49, 50; Psalm 19; Matthew 19
Today's scripture focus is 1 John 2:3

1 John 2:3 says:

“This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands.”

I love the first part of my allotted sentence (not that I have anything whatsoever against the second part)! This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him. 

What I love is the certainty that John has written into this one little sentence. The New Oxford American Dictionary (my apologies to Webster, but this is the one that came with my computer) defines “sure” as being “confident in what one thinks or knows; having no doubt that one is right” and that something is “true beyond any doubt”. That same dictionary defines the word “know” as being “aware of through observation, inquiry, or information” and being “absolutely certain or sure about something”.

How I would love to be able to say that I, Roxie, am sure that I know God. I feel that with each moment I spend in prayer, each verse I read, each topic I discuss, I am learning; I am coming to know Him. How can I be certain that I know Him, fully and completely? John Gill wrote a beautiful description in his commentary of what true, deep understanding of God is and isn’t...that Christians could know God 

“...not as the God of nature, and by the light of it, nor as the lawgiver and Judge of the whole earth, and by the law of Moses; but as the God of all grace, as a God pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin, as the Father of Christ, and as in him by the Gospel; and this not in a mere notional and speculative way, but with love and affection; not with fear and trembling, as devils know him, nor in theory, as formal professors and hypocrites, but with a knowledge, joined with hearty love of him, and cheerful obedience to him: or else Christ, the advocate and propitiation for sin; and him also, not with a mere notional knowledge of his person and offices, which carnal men and devils themselves have of him, but with that which is spiritual, special, and saving, being from the Spirit and grace of God; and regards Christ as a Saviour, as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, and an advocate with God the Father; and by which he is approved as such, to the rejection of all other savours, sacrifices, and advocates; and is trusted, confided, and believed in as such, and affectionately loved, and that above all others, in sincerity and truth; and is readily obeyed in his word and ordinances; for where there is true knowledge of Christ, there is faith in him; and where there is faith in him, there is love to him, for faith works by love; and where there is love to him, there will be an observance of his commands; and this is here made the evidence of the true knowledge of him...”
And that is just what Jesus pointed out when asked about the most important commandments. 
Mark 12:28-31 says, 28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
Though I feel as though Matthew 22:34-40 took it one step further...or maybe just said it in a different way that made me look twice:
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. These two commandments to love. To LOVE!!! To love God and to love my neighbour, could it be any more clear? Could it seem any easier?

Yet, I have to come back to my previous comments and wonder: why do I feel like I don’t know God? I confess that I am a slacker when it comes to consistently regular devos and I let life (including hunger and sleep) get in the way of intense, concentrated prayer times, but love. Society says that love is easy, love is free. Experience tells me that love is hard. I fail so very often to love..because my neighbour isn’t necessarily my husband or my mom and dad or my siblings or nieces or friends...most of the time they are easy to love...but the lady that calls me at work to talk about the same thing every day just as I am tired and getting ready to go home for the day; the person who shouts insults at my driving; the sniffling cashier at the grocery checkout; the community gossip; the guy who ripped us off; the very vocal Christian leader in the community who doesn't "walk the talk" ...these...these are the people I am supposed to treat like I want to be love as myself... and by loving them, I get to know the heart of my God.

May I see with Your eyes, hear with Your ears and feel with Your heart today, O God, and every day, that I may know You by loving those You love. Teach me to love like You love that I may truly and deeply know You.

Monday's scripture focus: 1 John 2:4-6
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Exodus 1,2

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday, January 24 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 47-48; Psalm 18; Matthew 18.
Today's scripture focus is 1 John 2:2.

and He Himself is the [a]propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.  (NASB)

(Just a side note:  The reason I have started using NASB is because my dad tells me that it is the most literal translation, and therefore, he feels, the most accurate.  It is also the translation used for my MacArthur Study Bible.  I've always used NIV and I didn't like reading other translations because they didn't feel familiar, but I actually have grown to quite like NASB.)

I remember memorizing these verses as a kid, probably in Awana (Awana is a Christian kids' club where Scripture memorization is how you earn your "badges"; they're not called badges, I don't remember what they're called, but you get the idea.)  Anyway, I remember this word propitiation.  Every time I read that word, I'm not telling you how many years later, I remember practicing how to pronounce it.  The dictionary in my Kobo defines propitiation as "an atoning sacrifice".  The notes in my study Bible say "appeasement" or "satisfaction".

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross satisfied the demands of God's holiness for the punishment of sin.  So Jesus propitiated or satisfied God.

Moving on to "those of the whole world," --  The passages which speak of Christ's dying for the whole world must be understood to refer to mankind in general.  "World" indicates the sphere, the beings toward whom God seeks reconciliation and has provided propitiation.  God has mitigated His wrath on sinners temporarily, by letting them live and enjoy earthly life.  In that sense, Christ has provided a brief, temporal propitiation for the whole world.  But He actually satisfied fully the wrath of God eternally only for the elect who believe.  The pardon for sin is offered to the whole world, but received only by those who believe.  There is no other way to be reconciled to God.

This goes back to what we talked about last week, saying that the book of 1 John is a "back to the basics" for believers.  Here we have the very core, the foundation, of our faith and our salvation.  Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.  Without the sacrifice being made, the penalty being paid by someone, we would be "on the hook".  We would each have to pay the penalty for our own sin.  And "the wages of sin is death".  Jesus made the choice to obey God.  He loved us so much that he was willing to take all that pain and suffering and humiliation and ultimately death, so that we who believe and repent could be free of bondage and have life everlasting.

This old, familiar hymn keeps coming back to my mind again and again these last few days:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness

(As another side note - you wouldn't believe how many youtube videos with the lyrics said "holy lean on Jesus' name" instead of "wholly lean on Jesus' name".  SO IRRITATING!)

Tomorrow's scripture focus: 1 John 2:3.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Genesis 49-50; Psalm 19; Matthew 19.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday, January 23rd

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 45-46, Psalm 17, Matthew 17
Today's scripture focus is 1 John 2:1

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (ESV)

As believers, we are no longer powerless against sin.  Yes, when we do sin, we must continue to acknowledge it and confess it in order to maintain our relationship with God and with our fellow believers.  But we are no longer slaves to sin.  We are no longer powerless.  We no longer HAVE to sin.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
This is not referring to hardships in life, like many people think when they mistakenly quote this verse to you during a trial in your life.  This verse is referring to you ability to conquer sin.  God will always provide a way out.  Always!  It is up to us to take it through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

But, in those times when we fail, in those times where our fleshly desires temporarily consume us, in those times where we succumb to temptation, we have an advocate.  Jesus Christ is our mediator.  Jesus Christ is our High Priest.

My MacArthur study bible says...
Although Satan prosecutes believers night and day before the Father due to sin (Rev 12:10), Christ's high priestly ministry guarantees not only sympathy, but also acquittal (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Thanks be to God!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: 1 John 2:2
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 47-48, Psalm 18, Matthew 18

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Jan 22, 2013 -- Sandy's posts

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is: Genesis 43-44, Psalm 16, Matthew 16
Today's scripture focus is: 1 John 1:8-10
Sermon series: Grace to you

1 John 1:8-10 English Standard Version (ESV)

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. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

You know what, I don't wanna acknowledge my sin.  *insert petulant pout here*.  I don't wanna.  *I* am a Christian.  I don't hafta acknowledge MY sin.  I can very much acknowledge YOURS.  My sin is all covered under grace, so that means I don't have to acknowledge, admit, or deal with it.  Right?






Oh.  I guess not.  That makes things sticky doesn't it?  I mean, I sin every day, by sheer virtue of getting up in the morning.  Some days, I sin with every breath I take and thought that is in my head.  That's a heavy load to bear.  Frankly, sometimes it's easier to not confess my sins.  Never mind that God has seen every sin I've committed before I've committed them from my birth to death, if I don't tell Him, then that means they're not real, right?  I...uh...I'm not the only one who operates that way, right?  Tell me yes and make me feel better, ok?

Salvation is a wonderful gift.  It's the best gift anyone can ever receive.  The end.  But, salvation doesn't mean that our sin ends.  It means we are no longer slaves to sin.  It means we have the power (through Christ) to resist the temptation to sin.  But it doesn't mean we no longer sin.  I think that's one of the biggest incorrect assumptions non-christians make.  "Oh, your a Christian.  You're perfect right?"  Nope.  Heck, I probably sin in my sleep.

We mustn't wallow in our sin, because that's almost as unhealthy as refusing to admit them in the first place.  But we must admit them.  We must confess to God in prayer, and He will continually offer us the sweet grace that comes only through Christ on the cross.
So simple.  Yet so hard.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21 - 1 John 1:6-7 - Tiffany

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 41-42, Psalm 15, Matthew 15
Today's scripture focus is 1John 1:6-7

The tough thing about living with a pastor is how easily it seems they come up with so much to say about two little verses.  When I told my husband what my verses my next post were to cover, he immediately said "oh yeah, I could do three sermons right now off of those.  And at least 2 off of verse 8."
And that made me frown a little because I couldn't think of a single thing to write about these two incredibly rich, life-changing verses in 1 John.
All I could think of was DC Talk's "In the Light" (video with lyrics here).

But after some prayer and reading and writing and re-writing, here is the clearest way possible I can explain these two verses:

If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.

 In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul asks "For what fellowship can light have with darkness?"  Darkness in these verses refers to sin and unrighteousness.  God, as the perfect and sinless being, has no darkness (1 John 1:5).

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, purifies us from all sin.

In his gospel, John writes "Those who live by the truth come into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God" (3:21). 
Later on in 1 John 2:6, John states "Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did."

Walking in the light means living as Jesus lived, living so that all our actions may be brought into the light without guilt or shame.
Living this way means we have fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters.  It also brings the glorious message of cleansing from all sin.  When we walk in the light of God, Jesus's death covers all our transgressions, purifying us!
Paul writes in Hebrews 9:14: "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers states "'But if we walk in the light,' we are cleansed 'from all sin'. It is a matter of obedience, and once we obey, the relationship is instantly perfected."

Isn't that wonderful?  That we merely have to turn from darkness to light, from death to life, from Satan to Jesus, and our relationship with the Trinity is instantly perfected.  Through our faith in Jesus's death and great love for us, we are saved.  We are offered light and life and love for all eternity.

And then, it is just a matter of following that light.  Not that it is easy - it isn't.  We all struggle, we all make mistakes, we all can find ourselves back in the darkness, but we also all get the chance to turn to the light again and again and again.

I prefer to look at my walk with Jesus this way - as the ending of a great movie, where the hero (Jesus) and his love (myself) go walking off into the sunset, following the light, and you know it is just really the beautiful beginning.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: 1 John 1:8-10
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 43-44, Psalm 16, Matthew 16


Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday, January 18 ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading: Genesis 35-36; Psalm 14; Matthew 14
Today's scripture focus passage: 1 John 1:5 ~ "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."
Accompanying MacArthur sermon: God: The Source of Light

Well.  It comes as no surprise that Johnny Mac can preach for almost an hour on just one verse, but I'll tell ya, trying to figure out what I was going to say about just this one verse was intimidating!!  I have to admit, this one verse by itself didn't really say much to me.

I wonder if partly that's because I've never not been hearing and/or learning about God in my life.  I tend to skim over many verses like these, not necessarily because the significance is lost on me (though I'm not delusional enough to say that's never the case!), but simply because the significance has been long assumed.  I mean, we already know this, right?

It's no secret that I've become a huge fan of MacArthur's teaching, but I found myself getting impatient in this sermon, feeling like it seemed to not really focus on the actual verse.  But then I started thinking, what if I hadn't been raised in a home that spoke Christianese and been speaking it relatively fluently ever since?  What if I was just learning the lingo?  Suddenly, it was much more beneficial to make the effort to study and understand the importance the Bible places on light, and its equation to life; The Light ~ Jesus Christ ~ to eternal life.

So what DOES it mean when the apostle John says that God is light, and why does he include the seemingly obvious opposite truth "in Him there is no darkness"?

In the Bible, we see light equated with two things:  life and truth.  So God is light, because He is the Source of our physical lives as Creator, and the Source of our spiritual lives as Savior.  Jesus is light because it is through Him that God was clearly revealed to us, and the gift of eternal life was made available.  The Gospel is light because it is the truth about us and God, and when our eyes are opened and we believe it, it gives us the life Jesus offers.  WE are light because others hear the Gospel from us, and see it lived out in our everyday lives.  (at least, that's the way it's supposed to work!)

The darkness, of course, is everything God is NOT.  Anything Jesus is not.  Anything WE are not, or should not be.  And I think the reason John mentions it alongside what God IS, is because he's setting up for the following verses.  He's about to give a series of contrasts that will give people a kind of checklist, if you will, to know what true salvation looks like in a person's life.

MacArthur says, "John is trying to protect the churches... from deceivers, false teachers, false prophets, liars.  John's passion is for the truth.  And he wants to expose the liars.  And so this whole epistle is at the very foundation of the safety of the church.  It is being able to distinguish who really has eternal life.  Who really has the light.  Who is really in the fellowship.  And who is not.  False teachers are successful because they claim to be in the light.  They claim to know the truth.  They claim to have the life of God, to be possessors of eternal life.  And we're going to see that the first test that John applies to determine whether somebody is really in the light, really  possesses the life, really has received eternal life is their attitude toward sin."  (emphasis added)

You get a glimpse of where this is headed, but he goes on to use some very strong language as he outlines those contrasts.  Language that, quite frankly, makes me uncomfortable when I think about good people I know.  And when I think about my own life.

Get ready.  I believe we are in for some serious toe-crunching and soul-searching in the coming verses!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: Genesis 37-38
Monday's scripture focus passage: 1 John 1:6-7

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday, January 17 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 33-34; Psalm 13; Matthew 13.
Today's scripture focus is 1 John 1:2-4.

and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

Although John doesn't identify himself in this epistle, my study Bible says that the "strong, consistent and earliest testimony of the church ascribes it to John the disciple and apostle... only someone of John's well known and preeminent status as an apostle would be able to write with such unmistakable authority, expecting complete obedience from his readers, without clearly identifying himself."  Later, it says "John was one of the 3 most intimate associates of Jesus, being an eyewitness to and participant in Jesus' earthly ministry.  In addition to the 3 epistles, John also authored the fourth gospel, in which he identified himself as the disciple "whom Jesus loved" and as the one who reclined on Jesus' breast at the Last Supper."

These things give John the authority to claim what is said in today's verses about "we have seen and testify and proclaim" and "we have seen and heard".

During the time that this epistle is believed to have been written, there were false teachers whose message boiled down to: Matter is evil and spirit is good, so sin committed by the body does not pollute the soul, so nothing you do with your body has any connection or effect on your spirit.  "Therefore sin committed in the physical body did not matter; absolute indulgence in immorality was permissible; one could deny sin even existed and disregard God's law."  They also taught that Jesus was not actually a human man but a spirit.  Because he was holy, he could not have been made up of "evil matter" like the rest of us.  This negates the salvation through the blood of Christ on the cross - if he wasn't actually a man, he could not have been the sacrifice on our behalf.  The believers who were faithful to apostolic doctrine were shaken by the separation of those who believed these teachings, and here is John, the last remaining living apostle, who knew Jesus personally and witnessed his ministry first hand, confirming and reassuring those remaining faithful.  And now we, as we read and study the Word of God for ourselves, have that same confirmation and reassurance as well.

"In light of the circumstances of the epistle, the overall theme of 1 John is... "back to the basics of Christianity."  The apostle deals with certainties, not opinions or conjecture.  He expresses the absolute character of Christianity in very simple terms... clear and unmistakable, leaving no doubt as to the fundamental nature of those truths.  A warm, conversational, and above all, loving tone occurs, like a father having a tender, intimate conversation with his children."

Have you ever felt that personal tone when reading the epistles of John?  I don't know that I really thought about it consciously at the time, but looking back now I recall a sense of almost relationship with the writer when reading these epistles.  You can feel the love in the language.

One last thing regarding verse 4:  A main goal for this epistle is to create joy in the readers.  The proclamation of the reality of the gospel produces a fellowship in eternal life, and in turn, fellowship in eternal life produces joy.

What hope there is in that!  Fellowship in eternal life, to be together in the presence of God and His Son Jesus Christ - where our joy will be complete.

Sorry if this sounds a little disjointed today.  Sinus headache + cold meds = lack of flow in thought process.
Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  1 John 1:5.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Genesis 35-36; Psalm 14; Matthew 14.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday, January 16th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 31-32, Psalm 12, Matthew 12
Today's scripture focus is 1 John 1:1
John MacArthur's sermon: The Certainties of the Word of Life (Part 1)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (NIV 1984)

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— (ESV)

I thoroughly enjoyed our study of Esther and learned an incredible amount from a book I thought I knew because I had simply read it (not studied it!) numerous times.  I'm looking forward to digging into 1 John together!

John's letter is both sermon-like and conversational - it doesn't follow an outline that flows from one point to the next.  John shares with the believers truths that he wants them (and us!) to know with absolute certainty.

MacArthur points out some of the differences between the Gospel of John and this, the first of John's three letters.

The gospel is evangelistic and written to nonbelievers so that they might believe.
The epistle is pastoral and written to believers so that they might have assurance in their faith and confidence in the work of Christ.

The gospel was written with the hope that unbelievers might receive life.
The epistle was written with the hope that believers might enjoy the life they had received.

In the gospel, the enemies of truth are unbelieving, legalistic Jews.
In the epistle, the enemies of truth are those who profess Christ but are actually false teachers or being led astray by false teachers.

In his epistle, John tells us that we need to believe in Jesus Christ, love one another and obey God's moral laws. He also tells us to be aware of false teachers - those.....
who attack the person of Christ, attack the reality of human sinfulness, attack the commandment to love. We want to be able to discern the terrible heresies that strike at the truth. We want to be the people of the truth and faithful to that truth.

John wants us to increase our joy, our holiness and our assurance.

And, just like he did in the gospel, in this letter he begins in the beginning.

From the beginning....."I am".   Jesus existed before the beginning of time, He continued to exist from the beginning of time and physically He existed from His birth here on earth.  He is both God and man.   He was a living, breathing human being.

My ESV Study Bible says...
John was an eyewitness to the physical and historical reality of Jesus' life on earth.  His message is not based on an ecstatic vision, grand idea, or mere human religious conviction.

It's based on fact.  On certainty.

From the beginning, Jesus.

It's always, only, all about Him.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: 1 John 1:2-4
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 33-34, Psalm 13, Matthew 13