Monday, September 30, 2013

Put 1 John Back on the Bottom Shelf

Only four books and 31 days left of the Bible Book Club

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1 John 5 - Love God and Keep His Commandments

LINK: 1 John 5 (memorize 5:11-12)

BACKGROUND 


An immature believer considers the commandments of the Bible burdensome, but when we taste more of God's love experientially, we begin to love the Words that He said because it is His love letter to us. His commandments are there because He loves us, not because He wants to burden us with "dos and don'ts" (Matthew 11:28-30). Love lightens our burdens.


Keeping His commandments includes love for God and love for others in His family. If we do not keep His commandments and go on sinning without confessing (1 John 1:9) our hearts turn away from God and His Word. 


If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we already have the victory (nike) to overcome (1 John 5:4; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7) the world because we have the divine nature of God living inside of us (2 Peter 1:4)! 


This Greek word for victory is nike (pronounced NEE-kay, not the way we pronounce the sports brand). Nike was the Greek goddess of victory. Jesus is the GOD of victory! We do not do this by faith in ourselves but faith in Christ who overcame the world (John 16:33)! 


John says that Jesus came "by water and blood" because he was writing to people who were influenced by the popular false teaching of Cerinthus who taught that Jesus was just a man whom "the Christ" had descended upon when Jesus was baptized and left Him before the crucifixion. If Jesus had died only a man, He could not have taken on the sins of the world. John refutes this false teaching and presents the three witnesses to prove Jesus is God: the water, the blood, and the Spirit. 


The water refers to Jesus' baptism where the Father said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:13-17). The Spirit also descends upon Jesus to confirm this. 


The blood is the crucifixion where the Father responded to Jesus asking Him to glorify His name: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again" (John 12:28). The darkness falling, the earthquake, and the tearing of the temple veil from top to bottom also witness to Jesus' deity (Matthew 27:45, 50-54). 


Jesus said that the Spirit bears witness of Him (John 15:26; 16:14). The Spirit within us bears witness that we are children of God (Romans 8:15-16). Also, the Spirit bears witness through the Word (1 Corinthians 2:14).


1 John 5:11-12 are important "assurance" verses to memorize. If we believe in the Son (and that belief is proven by our character and actions), then we are children of God. 


1 John 5:14-15 are about confidence (boldness) as a result of knowing that we have eternal life (5:13; 3:19, 22). God answers prayer according to His will, and we discern this by being in His Word and listening to the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).

ALFORD well says, If we knew God’s will thoroughly, and submitted to it heartily, it would be impossible for us to ask anything for the spirit or for the body which He should not perform; it is this ideal state which the apostle has in view. It is the Spirit who teaches us inwardly, and Himself in us asks according to the will of God.  
(A Commentary Critical and Explanatory, 1 John 5:14, p. 537)
Also, 1 John 3:22 says, "and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight." 

God has promised to supply our needs (Philippians 4:19). Bathe in the promises of God and ask with confidence and faith (Hebrews 11:1). We may not always see the answer right away, but we can be assured of it.

Why ask if he already knows our needs? "Because prayer is the way God wants His children to get what they need. God not only ordains the end, but He also ordains the means to the end -- prayer" (Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, 1 John 5:14-15, p. 529). 


It can also be surmised from the context of the passage that John is saying that a believer can ask God for help in keeping His commands because we know that is according to His will!


Now John turns to praying for another person. God's love flowing through us cannot help but give us love and compassion for our brothers and sisters. The outflow of that is prayer for them. 


If that person is continuing and making a practice of sin, John is saying that praying for him might not be according to His will and a waste of time and energy. What does the "sin leading to death mean" (5:16-17)? Sometimes sin leads to physical death as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), and Paul mentions those who died who took communion in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). Also, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit results in spiritual death (Mark 3:29), and Hebrews 6:4-6 describes the spiritual death of a person who falls away. This may be people who are making a practice of sin in a way that leads to eternal death. We must be subject to the Father in order to live spiritually (Hebrews 12:9). 


John might also be referring to those people who have left the fellowship in order to join the antichrists. These people had rejected salvation. 


Since we do not know who the people are who have wholly rejected Him, we need to continue to listen to God's voice; and if He prompts us to pray, then we should pray! God is the ultimate judge. The key is LISTENING prayer. Listen to God and pray as He prompts you to pray!


If one is truly born of God through believing in Jesus Christ, he or she will not make a practice of continual sinning. We are no longer a slave to Satan and have the means of forgiveness through confession (1 John 1:9). 


John's final words involved an admonition for the "born ones" to keep themselves from the idolatry (and accompanying moral laxness) that surrounded them in the Greco-Roman world in which they lived. 


REFLECTION 
D.L. Moody often said, “Every Bible should be bound in shoe leather.” We show our love to God, not by empty words but by willing works. We are not slaves obeying a master; we are children obeying a Father. And our sin is a family affair" 
(Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, 1 John 5:1, p. 524)
One thing I have noticed throughout this time of reading the epistles by all these authors is that they are about maturing in Christ. What does that look like? It is beyond just knowing the Bible but letting the life of Christ live through us resulting in willing works and love for others.

That is where I realize how woefully immature I really am. I think the more I grow, the more I know that I have so much more growing to do. It never stops. My 80+ year old mentors say the same thing. They have never stopped growing and learning! I want to be like that.


I want to grow more in love with Christ rather than the world. How about you?

Victorious faith is the result of maturing love. The better we come to know and love Jesus Christ, the easier it is to trust Him with the needs and battles of life. It is important that this maturing love become a regular and a practical thing in our daily lives. 
How does a believer go about experiencing this kind of love and the blessings that flow from it? 
To begin with, this kind of love must be cultivated. It is not the result of a hit-or-miss friendship! A previous study pointed out that a believer slips back into the world by stages: 
1.      Friendship with the world (James 4:4)     
2.      Spotted by the world (James 1:27)    
3.      Loving the world (1 John 2:15–17)    
4.      Conformed to the world (Rom. 12:2) 
(The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, 1 Jn 5:4, p. 526) 
Now turn that around and develop a friendship with Jesus. Let that friendship "spot" your life. Let that give you an even deeper love for Him (remember what we learned about "deeper knowledge" in 2 Peter 1?). Let that love conform you to His image (Romans 8:29). Complete conformity will come when we see Him face-to-face (1 John 3:1-3), but let's strive to reverse the influence of the world on us!

My husband and I were friends for two years (1987-1989) before we started courting, fell in love, and got married (1990). The love gets deeper and deeper every year. I cannot even begin to tell you how his character has influenced my life. For example, I am very direct by nature, but his diplomacy with others has really rubbed off on me. That love has resulted in a transformation of character and actions toward others. That is what Jesus wants to do for us!


APPLICATION 


Take some time to do some listening prayer. Ask Him to show you what He wants you to learn from this passage. Ask Him for an "I will"! He will give it to you. What are the "willing works" He wants you to do?


PRAYER


Lord, please speak to every person who reads this. May our love for You result in willing works! Amen. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

1 John 4 - Abide in Love and Build a Bridge

LINK: 1 John 4


BACKGROUND


False spirits must be distinguished from the Spirit of God. The most obvious way you know if someone is a false prophet is if they deny that Jesus came in the flesh and was from God! (See the REFLECTION section for more details about heresy in John's day). Reliance on God is the key to resisting the "one who is in the world" (Satan). Thoughts and teaching that come from the enemy always have an appeal to people who are not relying on God and are into the world (Romans 12:1-3, 1 John 3:15,16). 


John now turns back to his previous subject: love. God is love. If we are intimate with God, we will overflow in love for others. God's love was proven when He sent His only Son whom we are to live through, and the Holy Spirit will bear witness of this in our experience of the Spirit. This is a repeat of what John said in 3:24. Here is a concise way to say it:
When a believer loves, he is drawing that love from God’s Spirit (cf. Rom. 5:5), who is also the Source of his confession of Christ (1 John 4:2). Thus both the faith and the love enjoined in the dual “command” of 3:23 are products of the Spirit’s operation in a believer. A believer’s Spirit-led obedience becomes the evidence that he is enjoying the mutual abiding relationship with God that John wrote about.

(The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2, p. 899)
If we love, we need not fear (and can even be bold) in the coming judgment because "perfect love casts out fear" (4:18). If you do not love your brother or sister, John says you are a liar and not a lover of God.


REFLECTION
Most of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry had died by the time John composed this letter. Some of the second- or third-generation Christians began to have doubts about what they had been taught about Jesus. Some Christians with a Greek background had a hard time believing that Jesus was human as well as divine, because in Platonic thought the spirit was all-important. The body was only a prison from which one desired to escape. Heresies developed from a uniting of this kind of Platonic thought and Christianity.
A particularly widespread false teaching, later called Docetism (from a Greek word meaning "to seem"), held that Jesus was actually a spirit who only appeared to have a body. In reality, he cast no shadow and left no footprints; he was God, but not man. Another heretical teaching, related to Gnosticism (from a Greek word meaning "knowledge"), held that all physical matter was evil, the spirit was good, and only the intellectually enlightened could enjoy the benefits of religion. Both groups found it hard to believe in a Savior who was fully human.
John answers these false teachers as an eyewitness to Jesus' life on earth. He saw Jesus, talked with him, touched him -- he knew that Jesus was more than a mere spirit. In the very first sentence of his letter, John establishes that Jesus had been alive before the world began and also that he lived as a man among men and women. In other words, he was both divine and human.
Through the centuries, many heretics have denied that Jesus was both God and man. In John's day people had trouble believing he was human; today more people have problems seeing him as  God. But Jesus' divine-human nature is the pivotal issue of Christianity. before you accept what religious teachers say about any topic, listen carefully to what they believe about Jesus. To deny either his divinity or his humanity is to consider him less than Christ, the Savior.  
(Life Application Study Bible NIV, p. 2281)


APPLICATION


What do you believe? Think through it. How would you explain this to someone who did not believe?

Further challenge: Go out and talk with someone who does not believe (you can even tell them it is an application from your Bible reading)! Do not argue but listen and try to understand. You will probably build a bridge and make a friend in the process. 



PRAYER


Help us to grow in our understanding of who Jesus is. Help us to build bridges with others who may not believe the same. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

1 John 3 - Continue in Him and Bust Sin

LINK: 1 John 3 


BACKGROUND


How can we continue (abide) in Him? This is the message from 2:28 on. Abiding with God means a manifestation in our actions. Continue/Abide is the same Greek verb, menō, which occurs in John 15. John used this word 66 of the 112 times it occurs in the New Testament (40 in John, 23 in 1 John, and 3 in 2 John). If we are abiding, then our actions will be manifested, and we will have no need to be ashamed before God. 


At the beginning of 1 John 3, he asks his readers to contemplate the reality of God's great love for them as children. We can put our hope in the fact that we will see him face to face and be like Him! WOW!


John then talks about sin. Jesus came to take away our sins. If we are continuing in Him, we will not continue in sin! We do commit sins, but there is a difference between "committing" a sin and "continuing" in sin. When we continue in sin, we are making a pattern of practicing sin and lawlessness. When we commit a sin, according to 1 John 1:9, we repent, confess, and find forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The one who is in a pattern of sin, does not feel sorry for what he or she is doing and does not confess. If we are truly his children, we are working mightily to overcome sin through the power of the Holy Spirit!


One of the number one indicators of practicing righteousness will be love of and care for our brothers and sisters in Christ to the point of even laying down our lives for them like Jesus did for us. Love is righteousness in action. A true believer could never hate a fellow believer. 


For those of us who feel like we are just not doing "enough" in the area of love, John assured us that God's voice overrides the voice of our conscience or a "condemning heart" (3:20) because the heart is "more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).  Our job is to cultivate a listening ear to the Spirit's revelation to us. God's voice is also louder than the condemning voice of the devil who accuses us before God night and day (Revelation 12:10). If we are practicing love for others, believing in the name of Jesus Christ, and setting our hearts on God's love, we need not listen to our condemning heart or the voice of the enemy! If we are doing these things, we can walk in confidence and pray boldly (3:21-22).  


APPLICATION


Are you continuing to commit certain sins and cannot get out of a sin habit? Here are "Six Sin Busters" that have helped me in my struggle against these sin habits:


1) Seek the power of the Holy Spirit daily
2) Ask God to "strengthen you in your inner person" according to Ephesians 3:16 
3) Soak and abide in His presence through time in the Word (Psalm 119:9,11)
4) Pray against the enemy of your soul and put your armor on according to Ephesians 6:10-18 (satan wants to devour you [1 Peter 5:8] and cause you to be trapped in sin)
5) Stay away from tempting situations and people who lead you astray (1 John 3:7)
6) Seek help from others in the Body of Christ for prayer and accountability
7) Seek deeper inner healing prayer as sin can be rooted in lies that you believe based on how you interpreted past experiences in your life


PRAYER


Lord, I pray against the enemy in the name and the blood of Jesus Christ for any reading this who are stuck in a sin habit. I break that power. I pray that You would strengthen them in their inner person, Lord. create space so they can soak in Your presence. Help them to repent and receive Your love. Give them discernment and the power to resist tempting situations and people. Give them a body of believers who can surround them with prayer and accountability. Root out any lies they believe. I come boldly before You because I can have confidence in the shed blood of Jesus Christ to wipe away sin and keep them in Your presence. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

1 John 2:15-29 -- Do Not Love the World

LINK: 1 John 2


BACKGROUND


After the encouragements in 2:12-14, John went back to "warning mode" by cautioning them about two things:


1) Love not the World - This is in contrast to loving the Father and one another, which he had just previously taught. Remember James also warned of this when he said "Friendship with the world is hostility toward God" (James 4:4). We must choose God and love Him more than the world.  
Love of the world involves the . . .  
Lust (epithymia) of the flesh - Desires that are sinful and particularly illicit bodily appetites. 
Lust (epithymia) of the eyes - This means "man's covetous and acquisitive nature" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2, p. 891) and "the avenue through which outward things of the world, riches, pomp, and beauty, inflame us" (A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory: Volume 2, p. 529).  
Boastful pride of life - "an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own power and resources and shamefully despises and violates divine laws and human rights" or "an impious and empty presumption which trusts in the stability of earthy things" (Strong's exhaustive concordance of the Bible, G212). 
2) Beware of Antichrists - The time between Christ's first and Second Coming is considered "the last hour."  John warned against "antichrists." These were were false teachers who would deny that Jesus was the Christ and lead them astray. John assured these believers that they had the Holy Spirit who would teach them all things (John 14:26). They were to hold on to what they had heard from John in the beginning. The truth of Jesus as God the Son was to abide ("be at home") in them so that they could abide in fellowship with God the Father and God the Son.
The actual "body" of this letter begins at 1 John 2:28. So, I will deal with the end of 1 John 2 tomorrow. 

APPLICATION


Are you "abiding" in the truth and asking the Holy Spirit to teach you?
Do you love the world more than you love God?


PRAYER


Lord, we love You and want to love You more and more. This world pulls us in, especially with media that bombards us daily and lures us in. Strengthen us in our inner person so that we may resist the temptations of the world and love You with an undivided heart. Help us to discern truth from error. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

1 John 2:1-14 -- Advocacy and Love

LINK: 1 John 2


BACKGROUND


John has just revealed in the previous chapter that God is faithful to forgive us our sins. Even though the desire is to live without sin, John is aware that we will sin; and he reminds us that we have an Advocate in Jesus Christ. Let's explore this role of Jesus Christ and the meaning of the word "propitiation/atoning sacrifice" a little more deeply:
Advocate (paraklēton) - John used this term when referring to the Holy Spirit in John 14-16. The word, in this context, carries behind it the thought of "a defense attorney who takes up the case of his client before a tribunal" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 887). God, the Father, is the Judge. Satan stands as a prosecuting attorney accusing us of our sin, but Jesus Christ, the righteous One, is at the right hand of the Judge. Because of His death on the cross, He has satisfied the justice of God through His propitiation (see below). Therefore, when we sin and confess, He takes up our case with the Father. 
Propitiation (hilasmos) - This word is used here and in 1 John 4:10. A noun form is in Romans 3:25 and verb form is in Luke 18:13 and Hebrews 2:17. The NASB has the word "satisfaction" in the margin for this word. Because of God's justice, His only response toward sin can be wrath, but the cross has satisfied God and has met His righteous demands. The sin is covered and the guilt of it is extinguished (expiated). God shows his mercy on the one who believes in Christ as the One who provides this.  This provision is made for the whole world, but it is only put into effect for those who believe. The fact that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, shows God's great love toward us and should motivate us to love one another. Hilasmo begets love (4:7, 11, 20-21). 
Next, John talks about obedience. Jesus promised that He would disclose Himself to those who keep His commandments (John 14:21). This is what John is getting at here.  Knowing Him leads to obeying the truth, and obeying the truth leads to deeper knowing and God's love being made complete in us, and we become more Christ-like (2:5-6).


As God is in us, we love one another. Love is the fulfillment of God's Law (Romans 13:8-10). Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13:34, 35; 15:9, 12, 17). 


John wrote the letter to warn them, and he had done so in 1:5-2:11, but he also wrote to encourage them by speaking of the things he saw they possessed in 2:12-14:


1) Forgiveness of sin (2:12)
2) True knowledge of Jesus who was from the beginning (2:13)
3) True knowledge and fellowship with God (2:13)
3) Overcoming the evil one (2:13, 14)
4) Growth in strength (2:14)
5) Abiding in the Word of God (2:14)


Some commentators delineate between the categories of children, fathers, and young men as stages of spiritual maturity, but I see these as things we can all possess.


REFLECTION


In the middle of writing this post, I took a break and went to the beautiful Oregon Coast for five days of solitude, prayer, and reflection. It has been a very full and busy summer.  In the fast pace, God revealed that I had buried a hurtful situation that had occurred in June, and it came out during these five days. I wrestled with it for four days until I heard God say, "Choose love!" I immediately felt released from the hurt, and I could move. It was as simple as that. 


Another thing that struck me in this chapter was the role of the Word of God in overcoming the evil one (2:14):
Satan's number-one objective is to destroy our joy of faith. We have one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). But what many Christians fail to realize is that we can't draw the sword from someone else's scabbard. If we don't wear it, we can't wield it. If the Word of God does not abide in us (John 15:7), we will reach for it in vain when the enemy strikes. but if we do wear it, if it lives within us, what mighty warriors we can be! "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" (1 John 2:14).   
(Desiring God by John Piper, p. 151)


APPLICATION


How can we love one another in a practical way. There are many "one another's" in the New Testament. Here are a few to look up and pray about:


John 13:14
Romans 12:10, 16
Romans 14:13
Romans 15:7, 14
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Galatians 6:2
James 5:16
1 Peter 4:9


We can fight off the enemy by a sustained daily discipline of meditation on the Bible. What is your plan of attack?


PRAYER


Thank You Jesus that You are our Advocate and propitiation. Because of Your great love, Father, I can choose to love others even when they hurt me unnecessarily. Teach me more about how I can love others. Amen. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

1 John 1 - Live in God's Light

LINK: 1 John 1  (memorize 1:9)


BACKGROUND for Book of 1 John

Although it is never stated, it is believed that John the Apostle, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), wrote this epistle even though he never gives his name, but it is someone who was intimate with Jesus (1:1-2). The book is also similar in style to the gospel of John, especially in the statement of purpose (John 20:31). He makes five “purpose statement” in this letter:
1:3 So that you too may have fellowship with us 
1:4 So that our joy may be made complete 
2:1 So that you may not sin 
2:26 So that you might not be led astray (by antichrists) 
5:13 So that you may know that you have eternal life 
1 John 5:13 is the key verse for the whole book.

It is not addressed to any specific group of people. Tradition says that John was in the Roman province of Asia in western Turkey (Revelation 2-3). So we might assume it was written to them, but it is a book for all believers everywhere.

This letter describes God as light, love, and life. John walked in close fellowship with his God, and he wanted his spiritual children to do the same. If we are children of light, we cannot walk in darkness. We must walk in holiness and devotion. If we are children of the God of love, we must walk in love toward Him and others. In this book, John tells us how.

Eugene Peterson says it beautifully in his introduction to 1, 2, and 3 John in The Message:
The two most difficult things to get straight in life are love and God. More often than not, the mess people make of their lives can be traced to failure or stupidity or meanness in one or both of these areas. 
The basic and biblical Christian conviction is that the two subjects are intricately related. If we want to deal with God the right way, we have to learn to love the right way. If we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way. God and love can’t be separated. 
John’s three letters provide wonderfully explicit direction in how this works. Jesus, the Messiah, is the focus: Jesus provides the full and true understanding of God; Jesus shows us the mature working-out of love. In Jesus, God and love are linked accurately, intricately, and indissolubly. 
But there are always people around who don’t want to be pinned down to the God Jesus reveals, to the love Jesus reveals. They want to make up their own idea of God, make up their own style of love. John was pastor to a church (or churches) disrupted by some of these people. In his letters we see him reestablishing the original and organic unity of God and love that comes to focus and becomes available to us in Jesus Christ. 
BACKGROUND

1 John 1

The background for the first four verses of this chapter can be found in the background for the entire book.

In 1 John 1:5-10, John states that God is light. Light is referred to by John in his other writings (John 1:4-5, 7-9; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46; Revelation 21:23). Light exposes our darkness of sin. We cannot say that we are walking in the light if we continue to hold on to that darkness. We also cannot have fellowship with other children of light if we are walking in sin. Jesus died and shed His blood in order to purify us from sin. We can deny and hide it, or we can give God’s way of getting rid of it – confession:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous
 to forgive us our sins and
to cleanse us from all unrighteousness 
(1 John 1:9)

I have said it before, and I will say it again:

Confession of sin is a win-win!!!

What a miracle that we can be cleansed from unrighteousness! 

The next chapter will explain more about how the righteous Christ does this. Stay tuned!

REFLECTION

As I write this post, it is 4:18 in the morning. I am at my mother-in-law’s house out in the country, and it is pitch black outside. I know that in just a matter of minutes, I will begin to hear the birds sing and the first signs of light will begin to creep over the hill in the distance. We are perched high on an opposite hill, and the dawning of first light is always a spectacular experience.

When the light comes, the darkness has to flee. There is no room for both light and darkness to exist in the same place. How true in our own lives.
Confess your sin, let His light flood in, and walk in the light of a new day.

APPLICATION

If you have not already done it, please meditate and memorize 1 John 1:9. Then, have a time of confession with the Lord.

After submitting to God and praise, I try to have a simple time of self-examination with this as my guide:

Examination 
Holy Spirit, search my heart and reveal to me any unconfessed sin you find in me: 
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
 
Lord, I thank you for the forgiveness you promised when you said: 
“Come now, let us reason together:
Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Thought they are red as crimson,
They shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
(“Morning Affirmations” in Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship by Kenneth Boa, p. 4) 
You can download these in print or audio MP3 format.
PRAYER

Lord, I praise You for Your faithfulness to forgive our sins. Thank You that we have a way to make things right with You because of the blood of Jesus Christ, the righteous. Help us to mindful of that as we confess our sins to You.

(By the way, the birds just started to sing. The light is coming! Hallelujah! And have a BLESSED DAY!!!)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Put 2 Peter Back on the Bottom Shelf


Only five more books and 41 more days left of the Bible Book Club!

BibleBookcase

2 Peter 3 - Be On Your Guard

LINK: 2 Peter 3
  
BACKGROUND


Be on your guard lest, 
being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, 
you fall from your own steadfastness. 
(2 Peter 3:17b)


In this chapter, Peter refreshes the memory of these persecuted believers. The holy prophets spoke of the Day of the Lord (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; Ephesians 3:5). Jesus spoke of it and His return (John 14:1-3), and the apostles reinforced it (1 Corinthians 15:23; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 4:14-18; Hebrews 9:28; James 5:7). Therefore, these believers were not to let the scoffers (false teachers), who deny Jesus Christ and His return, get to them! 


Why has God waited so long for the day of the Lord? There are two reasons: 

1) God's timetable is not our timetable. 
2) He wants as many people as possible to come into the kingdom in His time frame. 

In the Lord's time, the end times with Jesus' return will be quick (Matthew 24:42-44; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 3:3; 16:15). It will be a time of cataclysmic earthly events. 



While they waited for His coming, they were to live pure and blameless lives, at peace with God. Also they were to be on their guard and steadfast in the truth and not give in to the error of the false teachers. The most significant thing is that God is waiting for those who do not know Him to be saved! He is a merciful God. 


APPLICATION 


Are you being diligent to grow spiritually as You wait for His coming?


Are you actively involved in spreading the Good News of the gospel knowing that God wishes no one to perish?

Do you pray for others to be saved, even the ones you think are the most evil? Here is a prayer guide for praying for one of the most brutal people on earth right now: 

30 Day Prayer Guide


PRAYER


Lord, help us to be alert and steadfast in truth by seeking Your face diligently and learning how to follow You. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

2 Peter 2 - False Teachers

LINK: 2 Peter 2


BACKGROUND


Jesus warned of false teachers who would twist His words and the words of the apostles (Matthew 23:11; Mark 13:22, 23). Peter proclaimed that those days had come. Some were downplaying the significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but Paul saw this as the essence of the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15.). Others claimed Jesus could not be God. Still others claimed He could not have been a man. Some were even promoting wrong and immoral acts. 


Peter gave his readers several Old Testament illustrations to demonstrate that "the Lord knows how to rescue the godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment" (2:9). While we do not know for sure, the angels referred to in 2:4 could be their fall with Satan when he rebelled against God (Ezekiel 28:15) or the sin of angels in Genesis 6:1-4. Also look at Jude 6-7 for a cross-reference regarding these angels. All the other illustrations come from the book of Genesis. See if you can find them!


Peter went on to explain some of the characteristics of false teachers. They were rebellious, animalistic, deceitful, chronic sinners, and greedy (see the "error of Balaam" in Jude 11; Numbers 22-24; 25:1-3; 31:16; and Revelation 2:14). He concluded the chapter by talking about the destruction these false teachers can bring to a church. 


Peter's warning was clear: Be on the alert for false teachers!


APPLICATION


Are you on the alert for false teachers today?


Are you able to discern true teaching from false teaching? 

Here are some questions from p. 54-55 of Precept Upon Precept - 2 Peter:

  • When you evaluate the popular teachings put forth in the name of Jesus Christ today, what or where is the emphasis?
  • Do you see any common denominators between today's Christian messages and the messages of the false prophets in 2 Peter 2?
  • What type of message do you like the best? What do you think constitutes a good message? Why?
  • What do you think should happen as a result of a message?
  • What do you think are the missing key elements in Christian messages today?
  • When someone expounds a message from the Word of God, are you familiar enough with the Word of God to know whether or not that person is handling the Scriptures properly? He may even be speaking truth, but does the passage he is handling really mean what he is saying it means? Can you tell? Why or why not?
  • Do you go to Christian conferences or seminars? If so, why?
  • What is your plan to fulfill 2 Timothy 2:15?
  • What do you think you need to strengthen your Christian walk? An experience? A vision, a dream, or a prophecy? A clear understanding of His Word? Obedience to the truths of God?

PRAYER


Lord, help us to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves in this world. Help us to discern between true and false teachers. We ask this in Jesus' name, and for Your glory. Amen. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

2 Peter 1 - Deeper Knowledge of Him in Our Struggle with Sin

LINK: 2 Peter 1 (memorize 1:3-4)

BACKGROUND 


2 Peter


The background about Peter is HERE.


Peter wrote this letter between A.D. 64 and 68. It was some time after the writing of 1 Peter (A.D. 62-63) and before the traditional date for his death in A.D. 67 - early 68 since he states in 2 Peter 1:13-15 that the time of his death was very near. Traditional holds that his death was in Rome. Since 1 Peter was probably written in Rome, it is likely that this was written from Rome also. 


Tradition has it that Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he did not consider himself worthy to be crucified in the same way as the Lord. 


He wrote this letter to "those who received a faith of the same kind as ours" (1:1) and those he had written before (3:1). If 3:1 is referring to 1 Peter, it was written to the mixed Jewish and Gentile churches in the states stretching along the southern shore of the Black Sea in northern Asia Minor. There is a possibility that the letter he refers to in 3:1 is not 1 Peter. If that is the case, we do not have the letter and cannot know who it is addressed to. Regardless, the letter is applicable to believers everywhere!


Peter wrote this letter to exhort the believers to press on to a deeper knowledge of Christ that resulted in practical spiritual values and right living. If they did this they would become steadfast and fruitful and could combat the false teachers and look forward to Christ's return. 


The purpose of the book can be stated in this key verse: 


You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, 
be on your guard so that you are not carried away 
by the error of unprincipled men 
and fall from your own steadfastness.
2 Peter 3:17 

BACKGROUND 


2 Peter 1

He introduces himself as Simon ("waverer") Peter ("the one who stood firm"). That is what this book is about: how to go from wavering to standing firm!


In 1:2-11, Peter exhorts his recipients toward a deeper knowledge of God. The Greek word used in 1:2, 3, and 8 is epignosis. It denotes "exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition . . . expressing a fuller or a full knowledge, a greater participation by the knower in the object known, thus more powerfully influencing him" (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: Volume 2, p. 301, Strong's 1922). It is beyond just knowing about God but having a deeper, more profound, heart knowledge that allows His very power to infuse you, causing you to live a deeper, God-driven, spiritual life.  We get to that deeper knowledge through His "precious and magnificent promises" in the Word of God! 


This word for knowledge is used only 20 times and only in the epistles, four of which are in this epistle, and three are in this chapter alone. It is definitely a key word in this book!


In 1:5-9, Peter talks of pursuing the qualities that make us useful and fruitful and are part of this deeper knowledge of God. Monty Mills pictures these qualities as a ladder reaching spiritual maturity:



Mills, M. S. (1997). II Peter: A study guide to the Second Epistle by Peter (2 Pe 1:5).
Faith is not the first rung but the foundation for the ladder (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). We are to "apply all diligence" which means to "exert oneself to the fullest." and "supply" each of the qualities listed to that faith. The Greek word for "supply" is epichoregeo. We get the English words "chorus" and "choreography" from it. 
In ancient Greece the state established a chorus but the director, the chorēgys, paid the expenses for training the chorus. Then the word came to be used of one who provides for or supports others or supplies something for them in abundance. A believer is to “furnish, supply, or support” his life with these virtues. (The same word is trans. “supplies” in 2 Cor. 9:10 and “supported” in Col. 2:19. Peter used it again in 2 Peter 1:11 where the niv renders it “receive.”)
(The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2, p. 865)
My favorite definition for "supply" is "minister nourishment."  So, we are to "nourish" that faith with moral excellence and redemptive acts. We are to nourish this with an entry level knowledge of God (that will lead to deeper knowledge), have our passions under control, patiently endure, reverence God, fervently give practical care for others, and finally practice unconditional love to all. 

If we are progressing in these things, we will be effective in life and develop that deeper and personal knowledge of God! If this happens, heaven will have abundant rewards! 


Let's "join in the chorus" from faith to love!


If a person is not growing in these qualities and claims to be a believer, they better evaluate their life before God (1:9). He may not be saved! Fruit and works are the FRUIT of salvation (remember our study of James?). 


In the last half of this chapter, Peter, as a witness of the majesty of Christ (Matthew 17:1-8) and about to die, reiterated the importance of knowing and applying God's Word. The false teachers would die, but God's Word would go on forever.  It was important for them to continually review the fundamentals of the faith found in the Word (1:12). He also reiterated that Jesus was the fulfillment of what the Old Testament prophets had spoken. They had spoken from God (2 Timothy 3:16). If we are to grow spiritually, we must depend on the Word of God! 



REFLECTION 

Back in the late 80s, I was tired of struggling with the same old sin. Sometimes, I felt consumed by it. How could I combat it?


I laid on my futon in my basement room and cried out to God, and He led me to these wonderful verses:

Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything 
pertaining to life and godliness, 
through the true knowledge of Him 
who called us by His own glory and excellence. 
For by these He has granted to us 
His precious and magnificent promises, 
so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, 
having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
2 Peter 1:3-4
He brought such life-changing clarity to me in that moment. If I was totally wrapped up in deeply knowing Him, then that sin was not going to be very appealing to me, and I could escape its corruption of me. In order to treat the sin, I needed to press in (hey that rhymed)! I just needed to seek Him more deeply, and I could do that by total immersion in His Word and the practice of His presence 24/7/365.

So, I pressed in more deeply than I had ever pressed in before. Guess what? The sin went away. There was no room for it because I was so full of Him! It's the WIN-WIN AGAINST SIN! (I am on a rhyming role today!)


I do not think we really press in. We cautiously reach out and touch Him at sporadic times throughout the week, and then we turn away and "minister nourishment" to our souls with empty calories.

Why don't we put all of our effort into truly nutritious (and delicious) spiritual food? 



APPLICATION

Are you pressing in to Him in your struggle against sin? 
Try putting all of your effort into it and see what happens!
Memorize 2 Peter 1:3-4 too!

PRAYER


Oh Lord, I feel like I am inadequate to really articulate this. Please help the reader to understand the true depth of this chapter. Make it life changing for them in spite of me!! I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.