The Sanctity of Life

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Human life is a gift from God. It begins with conception and ends with natural or accidental death.

Human life is far more than a mere physical and temporal existence. The conversation on the sanctity of human life must be seen through the lens of eternity.

On January 13th, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a presidential proclamation, designating Sunday, January 22th 1984 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

Last June, the Supreme Court finally overturned Roe v. Wade in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. States, including Missouri, have immediately enacted legislation preventing and limiting abortion.

But is the battle for the sanctity of life over?

Sadly, the battle for life will not be over until Satan is finally bound and cast into the fires of Hell (John 10:10).  

But the real question is, how much do we value life across all seasons from conception to the aged?

Beginning with the unborn, David recognizes the value of his own life even before he was born in Psalm 139. Life begins at conception and from that instant, our days are planned by God.

Every life is precious to God and has unlimited potential.

As the Church we need to be active in the fight for life. Adopting children and helping other believers who feel called to adopt.

As the Church we are compelled to care for those who have had an abortion. These are women who, for whatever reason, were forced to make a very difficult choice. Are we ready to share the love of Christ and lead them to the healing and forgiveness that is only found at the cross of Jesus Christ.

Our prayers for the life of the unborn must continue. But what about those who are elderly, disabled or unable to provide for themselves?

As believers, we believe that God controls the day of our birth and the day that we die, we trust the Lord with His perfect timing. Even when life ends tragically and unexpectedly, we must trust that the Lord is sovereign.

However, today we are seeing an increasing acceptance of Physician Assisted Suicide or Euthanasia.

This practice has been legal in the Netherlands, Canada, and now in ten US states.

Healthy societies are founded on the principles of preservation of human life. This is an increasingly slippery slope.

I am aware that this is a vast discussion and cannot cover it in a few lines. There is a difference between a patient refusing life saving treatment and doctors delivering lethal doses of medication to people who do not have a terminal illness.

There is a growing acceptance and legal permission for someone to die, who is not in a physically terminal situation, people with depression or chronic pain for example.

There have been instances where insurance companies have paid for physician-assisted suicide instead of treatments for terminal illnesses. Sadly, it’s easy to see why they would do that in a world where money is the god of the age.

Assisted suicide is neither compassionate nor an appropriate solution for those who are suffering.

By allowing physician-assisted suicide, we are determining that God cannot heal that particular situation. I believe it is evil and demonic, because it prevents any further glory for God and unless they are saved by the blood of Jesus, the person dying is going to experience eternal suffering that is far worse than anything they experienced in this world.

Daniel Callahan writes, “If death is an insult to the human condition, that insult requires a spiritual, not a scientific, remedy.”

Believers do not have the right to take their own lives. 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20 says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

But what about those that the world says, they are no longer valuable. They do not contribute in a meaningful way in society, those who are mentally or physically disabled. What does the Bible say about the value of their lives?

There is an account of a miracle that Jesus did in Luke 8, that I believe speaks to all of us about how we are called to treat the disabled people in our society. Jesus goes across the Sea of Galilee with his disciples and casts out thousands of demons from a man that his community had rejected and abandoned.

The demons go into the pigs and this causes quite a stir in the local community.  In fact, verse 35 tells us that when the people see the man, clothed and in his right mind sitting at the feet of Jesus, they were afraid.

I believe that mentally disabled people who are unable to make a personal decision to follow Christ because of a disability, will be saved. They will be clothed and sitting at the feet of Jesus in their right minds. I believe that Jesus loves the disabled and those that the world rejects as if they are of no value.

I wonder if the people were afraid, they had treated this formerly demon-possessed man so badly, and he could remember them. How have you treated the mentally disabled and the demon possessed people you have encountered?

Every human life has a purpose and is valuable. The unborn have potential to proclaim the Gospel message to the nations and the sick have the potential to be healed and bring glory to God through their testimony. This should be the basis of the discussion for Christians engaging in the debate of the sanctity of human life.

In our culture today we are seeing the effects of the religion of humanism. A total rejection of God as creator. When you take God off the throne and worship mankind instead, then autonomy and the self-governance becomes the ultimate good.

Chuck Colson wrote, “Human beings have an infinite capacity for self-rationalization. If you push human beings to the edge, if you have an extreme situation, almost anything can be justified.”

We hold a great responsibility to protect life and uphold the value of life at every stage, from the moment of conception through natural death.

How do you value life?

Let’s Talk about Money

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Fifteen percent of everything Jesus said in the Gospels relates to finances. There is eternal significance regarding finances.

Everything we own will end up in a landfill (Matthew 6:19).  This might sound depressing, but the truth is that everything we own will be lost.

Yet we fight over things and families split apart over inheritances. We spend hours fighting and wrestling to earn more money to buy things that will be thrown in a dumpster one day.  

Jesus said that there is a better way to live (Matthew 6:20).

So, what are treasures in heaven? Jesus instructed the rich young man in Matthew 19 on how to store up riches in heaven.

The Bible says that we will receive rewards in heaven as a result of how we live today. What you do with your time, your money, and your relationships are all potential deposits in an eternal treasure house.

 “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead” Randy Alcorn.

Having money and being wealthy is not a bad thing. However, the way we view money and how we use the money we have today is the way we store up treasures in heaven. It is a matter of ownership, who owns our earthly treasures?

From Psalm 24:1 we know that God owns everything, and we get the opportunity to be stewards of what God always owns. We are investment managers of God’s resources.

Are you devoted to the Lord or are you devoted to money and possessions?

We live in a materialistic society where there is a constant striving to accumulate money and things, that will eventually rot away.

It really is all about having an eternal perspective. But many Christians live as if this is all there is. Many professing Christians love the concept of eternal life and heaven, but it is disconnected from their daily reality (Philippians 3:20). Our home is a place we have never been.

AW Tozer wrote, “As base a thing as money often is, yet it can be transmuted into everlasting treasure. It can be converted into food for the hungry and clothing for the poor. Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.”

Many of you are struggling financially, and simply making ends meet is a challenge. Inflation, natural gas prices, medical debt, and other life expenses are the present realities of most people.

Jesus is not speaking to rich people in Matthew 6, he was primarily speaking to his disciples. These were men who had nothing, they had left their livelihoods and followed Jesus when he called them.

Jesus told them not to worry in Matthew 6:31-32. It was not an encouragement or a suggestion, it was a command! Our heavenly father knows what we need. Do we believe this?

The kingdom of God is counterculture, it is counterintuitive. The world says that in order to be secure and have peace, you must amass wealth, storing up for a rainy day.

I am not saying that saving and being frugal is a bad thing, but security in the kingdom of heaven is found when we are generous.

It is a Biblical and accepted principle to worship God by giving to Him. Giving 10% is a good principle, a starting point as a spiritual discipline. We are no longer under the Mosaic law, but Jesus didn’t lower the bar when he preached, he raised the bar. Every New Testament teaching on giving always goes beyond a 10% tithe, it never falls short of it.

So, the question is not whether or not I am giving 10% to the Lord, the question is, what am I doing with the other 90% that the Lord has entrusted to me? After all, it all belongs to Him.

Am I using the 90% for the Lord’s glory or am I wasting it on pleasure, and on things that do not please the Lord.

I encourage you to give 10% of your income to the work of the ministry of your local church, and then as the Lord leads you, give over and above to missionaries and ministries that advance the Gospel.

This is not giving to God to become rich in this present age. The false teaching that says if you give $1000 to God, he will bless you with a tenfold return or more. That is not the Gospel.

If the Gospel seems to be more true in America than it does in rural China or central Africa, then it is not the good news of Jesus Christ. God is not a vending machine who responds to us as if He is there to do our bidding.

Now if we follow God’s principles and honor him with our money, it is usually results in prosperity, but that is the blessing of the Lord for His glory and not a response to our manipulation.

God wants us to be generous with the blessings that He gives us. Generosity comes from knowing that everything we have comes from the Lord and that our God never runs out of resources.

God blesses us so that we can be a blessing (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).

Let us become a people who are generous, resulting in…thanksgiving to God.

You may ask, with all this talk of generosity and giving, don’t we live in a season of financial uncertainty? I am sure you have heard the reports of recession. However, whenever there is fear, there is also manipulation. God always calls His church to walk in the opposite spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).

Do you want to recession-proof your finances? Invest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:33).

If you were to die today, how much have you invested in eternity?

Is God calling you to be a more generous giver?

Is God calling you to commit all your finances and resources into His care?

Our Humble Savior

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When Debbie and I grew up in South Africa, Christmas was in the middle of our summer break. It was hot and usually we would spend the day around a swimming pool. We never dreamed growing up that we would ever experience a white Christmas.

The irony was that we would decorate our houses with winter themed Christmas decorations in the middle of the African Summer. But just like Christmas doesn’t seem to fit in Summer, one seldom looks at Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi during the Christmas season.  However, I believe that Philippians 2:3-11 speaks of the incredible glory of the nativity.

Christmas is a time when we remember the ultimate act of humility. The creator God humbled himself and became a baby, every aspect of the nativity is a picture of humility.

Christmas is a season when we think of others, we take time to choose gifts that our loved ones would cherish. Gift giving is a picture of Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Thinking of others involves humility, putting others interests first. This is what Christmas is all about, God thought about you when He sent His son to the earth.

The Christmas story is all about humility.

Mary and Joseph were turned away from the Inn and all that was available for the birth of the Messiah was a manger, a feeding trough for the animals. The most unlikely place for the birth of the savior of the world, but it was a demonstration of humility by God.

Then we have the location of the birth, the town of Bethlehem. The prophet Micah wrote about Bethlehem in Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

Bethlehem is a small town, not one of the great cities of the world. An unlikely place for the birth of a mighty king. God was painting a picture of humility.

Then we have Mary, a young girl engaged to be married. She had no wealth or status, she wasn’t a prophetess or a religious leader or student of the Law, but she was available and humble. After the angel Gabriel gave Mary the message of the fact that she would be the mother of the promised messiah, she simply said in Luke 1:38, “…Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Note that Mary doesn’t argue or complain about the disruption to her life, she humbly accepts the will of God.

The same with Joseph, a man who worked as a carpenter, with plans to get married and raise some children who would follow along in his trade. When the angel gave Joseph the news in a dream, he didn’t argue or disagree with the plan of God, he humbly submitted to the will of God.

So it was with the shepherds. I have often wondered why God sent angels to the shepherds first. These were men who worked at night in the fields. They were seldom seen in the public square and their lives were not glamorous. But God chose to reveal the greatest of all miracles first to the shepherds. God loves the humble.

The wise men also came with great gifts and wealth. But they didn’t come to be honored, rather they came to give honor as they knelt and worshipped a baby. The child promised in the ancient writings to be the king of the Jews.

And then we have the Christ child. Jesus was and is the eternal second part of the trinity. He is the creator God existing in unapproachable light of the glory of the Lord. Yet he willingly chose to take on flesh, to become like one of his creation (See Philippians 2:8).

Our minds cannot begin to comprehend the humility of the lord of hosts to come in the form of a baby. Helpless and needing to be fed, carried, and cleaned. But in that humbling was the very root of our salvation.

In every aspect of the nativity, you see the overarching theme of humility.

Jesus lived a life of humility culminating with the greatest act of love, when Jesus, the God of all creation humbled himself (See Philippians 2:5-7).

Why is humility so important?

Humility is the one thing that when you are aware that you have obtained it, you have just lost it.

The Bible is full of texts that speak about the power of humility, (James 4:6, Isaiah 66:2, Proverbs 3:34 and many more).

The reason why humility is so important, is because the root of all sin is pride. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, he appealed to their pride and that was the downfall of humanity. The root of all sin is pride, that is why our salvation comes through humility. But this is so counterintuitive in our 21st century western world. Our culture validates and applauds pride.

The 19th century Poem called Invictus by William Ernest Henley speaks about the pride of humanity without God.

Out of the night that covers me,   
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
  For my unconquerable soul.

It matters not how strait the gate,   
  How charged with punishments the scroll,   
I am the master of my fate:
  I am the captain of my soul.

I am the captain of my destiny; I will do what makes me feel good. This is the world we live in today, with little thought of humility. Pride leads to sin, death, and eternal separation from God.

Our salvation comes through humility. We are saved when we humble ourselves and realize that we can do nothing to save ourselves. We simply must repent of our sins and receive the free gift of salvation made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Have you made Jesus Christ lord of your life?

Unassuming Hero

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Real heroes are people who do the right thing simply because it needs to be done, they seldom plan it out or look for fame. Real heroes seldom have time to think about their call to action.

The Gospel of Matthew has the record of an unassuming hero. Someone who avoids the limelight and plays a crucial part in the early life of Jesus. Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus.

So, who was Joseph?

Not much is told about Joseph and none of his words are recorded in the Bible. He was of the tribe of Judah and the royal line of David. All we know is that this man was given the awesome responsibility to raise and train up the son of God. He is the forgotten man, the unassuming hero of the greatest story ever told.

Joseph probably had a plan for his life with Mary.  A life of hard work and keeping a good name in the community. We read in verse 19 that Joseph was a righteous man, a just man, and a man of honor.

But then his planned life began to unravel. Mary was found to be pregnant, and Joseph’s world was in disarray. He had every right to divorce her during their betrothal, and it would have been easy.

However, God had other plans for Joseph and Mary.  Joseph has a dream. In fact he has four dreams and these dreams steer the course of History.

The first dream is found in Matthew 1:20, “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

The Angel told Joseph not to be afraid, why would he be afraid? It was the fear of shame, ridicule, and the opinions of others.

It is no coincidence that when God gives you an assignment, other people will criticize or ridicule you for being irresponsible, crazy, or worse. You cannot serve the Lord and satisfy the opinions of those who are close to you.

Joseph was told something unbelievable; Mary’s baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Nothing like that had ever happened before, nor happened since. Joseph was a hero, a man who did the right thing and obeyed the angel in the dream.

The second dream is found in Matthew 2:13, “Now when they (the wise men) had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.”

Joseph didn’t hesitate, he took his family and left that night for Egypt. His response and obedience were immediate. How often do we obey immediately? We tend to wait for confirmation and maybe another word from the Lord before we obey. But not Joseph.

Then Joseph has a third dream, Matthew 2:19-20, “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.”

Another dream, another directive to travel and the response from Joseph is the same. He takes Mary and Jesus and heads to Israel immediately.

Imagine the challenges of travelling in the first century from Egypt to Israel; walking, perhaps with a donkey to carry belongings including his tools for his trade. What is their final destination? Joseph doesn’t know, yet he still obeys.

Frequently, God only gives us the next step; where to go, what course to study, to start a business or resign from our job. Whatever the instruction is, God seldom gives us the long-term plan, He simply says go…

The unassuming hero is a person who trusts God for the next steps. Joseph was a man of faith.

What first step is God asking you to take?

As they head for Israel, Joseph discovers that is might not be safe for Jesus, and then he has his fourth dream.

Matthew 2:22-23, “Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and settled in a city called Nazareth. This happened so that what was spoken through the prophets would be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

This fourth dream leads Joseph to take his family to Nazareth. It was a small and disliked town in Galilee.  The label, “Nazarene” was actually a term of derision. Nazareth was part of God’s plan all along.

Joseph was the unassuming hero, fulfilling the plan of God. This is the last time in the Gospel of Matthew that we read about Joseph.

It would be safe to say that Joseph had one of the greatest responsibilities and honors in the whole Bible. Yet he never stood on stage, never gave a powerful speech, never wrote a book, and it is safe to assume that he never made a lot of money. Yet God found in Joseph, someone who was willing to be obedient and became a man of highest honor. The adoptive father of the Messiah.

Has God given you an assignment? If you are a follower of Jesus, then you have an assignment. It might not be flashy, but if you are obedient and faithful, you too are an unassuming hero.

God is always looking for unassuming heroes (see 2 Chronicles 16:9a).

Are you completely His? Do you trust the Lord even when it seems crazy, and people will ridicule you or talk behind your back? Even when it seems contrary to what natural wisdom seems to say.

God is working out his master plan, are you willing to trust him?

Thankfulness a Spiritual Discipline

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As we celebrated another thanksgiving, we were grateful to spend time with some of our church family. I am so glad we live in a country that celebrates a day of gratitude.

I think Thanksgiving means so much to Debbie and I because like the Pilgrims, we are immigrants and have been blessed by God in these United States. The word “Pilgrim” means, “a person on a sacred journey in a foreign land.” We must remember that we who are followers of Jesus are all pilgrims and foreigners in this world.

Thanksgiving is all about God and recognizing all the blessings He has freely given us. In a world that has all but pushed God away in every sphere of society, it is amazing that we still celebrate thanksgiving.

Dante Rossetti once said; “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank”.

The Psalms are full of wonderful anthems of praise and thanksgiving, and Psalm 103 is one of them.

It is interesting to see what David focuses on as he thanks God. Not once in that entire Psalm does he give thanks for his family, his home, his possessions, or even his throne. David doesn’t give thanks for many of the things most people would mention. Instead, he praises God for forgiving his sins, healing all his diseases, redeeming his life from the pit, crowning him with love & compassion, and satisfying his desires with good things so that his youth was renewed. David couldn’t lose those things.

Jesus emphasized the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6:19-21). How thankful are we for the things we can never lose?

Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,”

This is such a crucial verse. If we forget the blessings of the Lord, we will quickly become ungrateful, take things for granted, and maybe even begin to feel entitled. The danger of this is that we become focused on what we don’t have, rather than on the many things we receive from the Lord that we don’t deserve.

Psychologists will tell you that there is tremendous benefit in being thankful. It is needed for our physical health and for developing healthy relationships. I would like to suggest that thankfulness becomes a spiritual discipline that we can and must develop, and it will produce enduring fruit.

The Bible is full of commands, and it encourages us to be thankful (see Ephesians 5:19-20).

We know that the Bible is practical and recognizes the pain and suffering that we encounter on life’s journey. The command to be joyful and give thanks is not an excuse to turn a blind eye to pain and suffering. Rather it reveals to us that are unable to be continually thankful without the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Real thankfulness is not dependent on our circumstances, it is a response to the goodness of God and the Gospel message.

The Psalms are full of examples of thanksgiving during pain. Several the Psalms of David begin with him crying out in pain, but by the end of the Psalm, as he recognizes the hand of God, he thanks and praises the Lord.

Our lives are fragile, and we easily forget how dependent we are on God for everything we have (see Psalm 103:13-16). Our lives may be fragile and fleeting, but to God we are precious in His eyes, and He will never forget us.

Our Father provided a way to redeem us and bring us into relationship with Himself. Our sins and prideful nature separate us from God, and unless our sins are atoned for, we will never enter into eternal life in relationship with God. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” That is something to be thankful for!

Tim Keller observed: “The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself or less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

Isn’t it amazing that two people who live in similar situations can have such a different outlook on life. One person is negative and complaining, while the other is optimistic and joyful.  The difference is gratitude.

Praise and thanksgiving make all the difference in life.

Each moment that we’re given is a precious gift from God. We can choose to have a thankful attitude and live each moment full of joy.

Being thankful is an act of worship because it reminds us of our provider, our Heavenly Father.

My challenge to you this week is that as you go about your day, make a point of being grateful for the little things, and if you struggle with identifying them, ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see the blessings all around you.

As you do that, you will be praying without ceasing!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing,” we repeat that verse but often overlook the full sentence starting in verse 16, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

We are called by God to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances.

Why? Because it is the will of God in Christ Jesus. God knows that this is the best for you and me. A spiritual discipline that will produce a harvest of righteousness.

Knowledge is Power

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As we come to the end of John’s first letter, we must remember his purpose in writing was to dispel false teachers who had begun to deceive the first century church.

John makes 22 statements of truth that he wants the readers to grasp throughout the letter, and in these final verses he makes five more claims of truth.  

1: We can know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

If there was one verse that sums up the entire letter, this is it.

John tells his readers that you do not have to doubt your salvation.

The whole book revolves around belief, obedience and the love of God. Our feelings can deceive us, but faith in the truth of God’s word is what will sustain us. (See John 10:28–29).   

2: We can know that God answers prayer (1 John 5:14-15).

We often turn to prayer when we have exhausted every available option and solution. But prayer should be the very first thing we should do when faced with life’s challenges.

R. A. Torrey said, “Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is and all that God has is at the disposal of prayer. But we must use the key. Prayer can do anything that God can do and since God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent.”

John says, we come to God because we have confidence. Confidence ultimately stems from relationship.

Sadly, too many Christians are practical atheists. Let me explain, I often hear statements to the effect, “I know God can do anything”, and then they say, “but the reality is…”

It doesn’t matter what you say after that, that is the talk of a practical atheist. God is the ultimate reality and as we grow in our relationship with Him, we trust Him with our prayers.

Verse 14 continues, “…that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”.  This is not an excuse for not persisting in prayer, rather we persist in prayer until we discern God’s will, and then we pray His will.

George Mueller said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of God’s willingness.”

So how can we know God’s will? Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our prayers and intercedes with us and for us. We can discern God’s will by reading God’s word and listening to the Spirit. Frequently we don’t know because we don’t wait on the Lord, we rush in and out of His presence before we let Him speak.

We need to know our position before God as we pray (see Ephesians 2:6 and Hebrews 4:16). As God’s children, do we come before the throne and approach Him as our perfect and loving Heavenly Father?

Prayer is the spiritual thermometer of our lives. It is an indicator of our relationship and trust of our Heavenly Father. It has been said that prayer to the Christian is like breathing for our physical bodies.

(For a detailed explanation of verse 16 and 17 please watch the sermon video)

3: We can know victory over sin (1 John 5:18).

There are three incredible statements in this verse, explaining how we can have victory over sin.

  1. As we know from 1 John 3, a Christian does not habitually sin. Unconfessed and ongoing sin is not a part of the life of a believer. If you sin habitually and don’t have a problem with it, are you born again?
  2. We have the promise of the protection from sin by Jesus the son of God. Jesus paid for our salvation, now in heaven, he maintains our salvation (see Jude 24).
  3. The final phrase of the verse, “and the evil one does not touch him.” Satan wants nothing more than to destroy the followers of Jesus, to grab us and do us harm, but because we are covered by the blood of Jesus, he cannot touch us.

4: We know we belong to God (1 John 5:19).

As followers of Jesus, we are not of this world. The world is under the power of Satan, and he for a time has the world tied in slavery. Satan is the one who deceives and blinds unbelievers. The war for the souls of mankind is very real. We must be alert and pray with a wartime mentality. Remember we have the amazing promise of 1 John 4:4.

5: We can know what is true (1 John 5:20).  

John ends his letter the way he began, that Jesus is the Son of God. He uses the word, “true” three times. Jesus is really God and in him we have eternal life.

As Christians we live in reality, not the reality of the news media, education systems, science, or what people think to be true. Ultimate reality is found in the supernatural God who holds every atom in place.

A miracle is God breaking into the natural world and changing reality (see Matthew 6:10).

Then John adds a final sentence, almost a postscript, in verse 21 it can easily get glossed over, but it is crucial. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”.

An idol is anything that you love, pursue, or enjoy more than God. We can easily make idols of things in our daily lives.  It could be money, sport, relationships, education, or desire for recognition, the list is endless of things we can value more than God.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “The thing we serve is the thing we worship! Whatever controls our lives and “calls the signals” is our god.”

Idolatry is a subtle way that Satan uses to control us, and we find ourselves living for the unreal instead of the real.

What lie are you believing today? If God is speaking to you today about any of these truths that you have not believed, repent and allow the Holy Spirit to impress these truths into your heart.

Irrefutable Evidence.

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Can you know anything for certain? We all have a deep desire to know things for certain.

As the church, we have the truth, but sadly people even within the church do not know and believe the truth for themselves.

Today, truth is under attack. Truth has been relegated to opinion and feelings. Truth is found in God alone; He is the ultimate reality.

John wrote this letter with the primary purpose of refuting the false teachers of the day. The people to whom John was writing were exposed to a popular false teacher named Cerinthus. He claimed that Jesus was merely a man on whom “the Christ” had come when Jesus was baptized and then left him on the cross, so Jesus died an ordinary human being.

How do we know that Jesus Christ is God?

Some of the people who lived during the time of Jesus called him a liar and a deceiver. Others today call him a good teacher of life principles, maybe even a great prophet.

To refute the false teaching John needed proof, he needed witnesses who would make the case that Jesus was indeed God in the flesh. The Mosaic Law required that two or three witnesses were needed to confirm a matter (Deut. 19:15). In the case of Jesus, we have six witnesses.

John begins his defence in verse 6, “This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.”

1: Witness of Baptism

The water refers to Jesus being baptized by John in Matthew 3. It was a declaration and a witness to who he was. When Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove and the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. At his Baptism and beginning of his ministry, the entire Trinity was present as a witness.

2: Witness of Crucifixion

The second witness is the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. There were multitudes of people who witnessed the supernatural events of that day. In Matthew 27 we read that there was a long period of darkness, an earthquake, people came back to life and walked into Jerusalem, the temple veil was torn by God and the centurion and those who witnessed these events testified, “Truly this was the Sonof God!” Matthew 27:54b.

The crucifixion of Jesus was not a mistake or the death of a martyr. It was the divine plan of the trinity before the beginning of time to provide salvation by means of a perfect willing sacrifice and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were present and witnessing to who Jesus was.

3: Witness of the Holy Spirit

The third witness is the Holy Spirit. Verse 6 continues, “And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”

The primary role of the Holy Spirit is to testify about who Jesus is (John 15:26). Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth, a reliable witness. The Holy Spirit is the only person who is active on the earth today who was present when Jesus was ministering on the earth.

4: Witness of the Father

In verse 9 and 10, John steps up the level of argument saying that if you believe the testimony of men, God’s testimony regarding His son is infinitely greater.

God gave testimony to the person of Jesus multiple times during and before his life on the earth. Jesus himself said in John 5:37a, “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.”

As a result of this, we are forced to decide, accept that Jesus is the son of God or reject him, there is no third option. John writes in verse 10 that to reject these testimonies about Jesus, is to make God out to be a liar.

There is so much evidence of who Jesus is and what he has done, it is not that people are ignorant, it is that people willingly choose to rebel against God.

5: Witness of our own conversion

The first sentence of verse 10, John turns the spotlight of the witness box on us. “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself”. (1 John 5:10a)

We have these outward testimonies, and witnesses, but what about the testimony of the believer? (See Romans 8:15-16). His witness is our inner confidence that we belong to Christ, a confidence that God gives us.

Many people can point back to a moment when they decided to follow Christ, but our testimony is daily walking in the knowledge of our savior. Having that daily walk and personal relationship with Jesus through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life. our lives are marked by daily encounters, “God moments”, as you walk out your God given calling.

6: Witness of Eternal Life

The final witness is one that many people don’t realize that we can already experience. Verse 11 reads, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

Our eternal life is our testimony. Eternal life is not endless life. Eternal life is true life, beginning from conversion in relationship with God. Eternal life is sharing the very life of God, through the power of the indwelling presence of God (See John 17:3).

Do you have this eternal life today?

If you choose to reject all these witnesses and reject the offer of salvation, you will not have life. You will be a walking dead person. Sadly, there are people in the church today who are not living an eternal life. It is possible to have a belief in the historic facts about Jesus, even say the right words, but without faith in Jesus Christ you are not living the eternal life that God is offering you.

Jesus is God; this is foundational to everything else.

Faith that Overcomes

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It is quite normal for children to have the same passions and interests as their parents. When we are born again, we begin to take on the identity of our spiritual birth. In 1 John 5, we see that there are traits that we display which indicates that we are born from above, that we are Christians.

Verse 1 begins, “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.”

This passage is all about belief and faith, and the word used for belief refers to an ongoing action. In other words, our salvation is not based on a one-time decision to trust in Christ, but rather it is an ongoing trust and belief in his completed work that saves us.

The primary evidence of this new birth is that we love God the Father and obey His commands of loving others and loving God (1 John 5:2). John is referring to what Jesus said in Matthew 22:36-40.

What is ultimately the best way to show love towards others?

We can meet peoples’ felt needs like, clothing, food, education and the likes, but none of these meet the eternal need of every human being, the need to be made right with God (Mark 8:36).

Our love for others in the form of missions and evangelism must strive to meet felt needs, but we must lovingly declare the Gospel, the only way to salvation.

As we have seen throughout John’s letter, he frequently comes back to the theme of obedience. Loving God and obeying God are inseparable. But this obedience is not a chore, it is not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

Does this mean that I will never get tired in doing what God calls me to do? No, we will get tired, but it won’t be a burden, because of our love for God (Matthew 11:29-30).

John Piper said, “What you desire to do with your whole heart is not burdensome to do.

Loving God is not simply right behavior, it is a longing to do His will, stemming from the desire that He places in our hearts. People who are not saved kick against obedience to God, but when we are born again, we are changed, and it is our delight to serve the Lord.

1 John 5:4 says, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

Is there a difference between faith and belief? This is a hotly debated topic in some theological circles. In the original language, both words have the same root, but faith has a deeper meaning. Belief often means and intellectual acceptance of a reality, whereas faith in our modern English, means to trust or to commit to someone. For example, I can look at a rope swing and believe it could hold me, but I don’t really have faith in it unless I climb on it and swing out over a river.

In the same way, many people have a belief in the facts about God, even an intellectual belief in the Gospel, but they have never fully put their faith in Jesus Christ as their savior.

True faith changes our behavior, true faith changes the way we live out our belief.

“…And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” 1 John 5:4b. Our victory over the world is the result of our faith. We have faith in God because we know He loves us, and we love Him.

John uses the phrase, “overcome the world” three times in this passage. As overcomers, John is not referring to “super-Christians”, he is referring to every true follower of Jesus. Everyone who has been born again, is called to be an overcomer. Through faith we can overcome; fear of man, fear of failure, addictions, temptations and the lies of Satan.

We are overcomers, not by our own strength and willpower, no we are overcomers because of the completed work of Jesus on the cross.

John Piper wrote, “Faith sees that Jesus is better. That is why faith conquers the world. The world held us in bondage by the power of its desires. But now our eyes have been opened by the new birth to see the superior desirability of Jesus. Jesus is better than the desires of the flesh, and better then the desires of the eyes, and better than the riches that strangle us with greed and pride.”

1 John 5:5 is the bookend that takes us back to believing in Jesus, the Messiah. We can be overcomers because of our position in Christ. We struggle to grasp this, but it is vital for our Christians walk. Our understanding of our position is everything (Ephesians 2:4-6).

The victory in life comes from knowing our position, when we claim our position in faith, we share in the victory that Jesus has won. As Christs ambassadors, we have a position far above all the enemies of Christ.

The key, of course, is faith, this has always been God’s key to victory. The great men and women named in Hebrews 11 all won their victories by faith. They simply took God at His word and acted on it, and He honored their faith and gave them victory.

Faith is not simply saying that what God says is true, it is acting on what God says because it is true.

“Faith is not so much believing in spite of evidence but obeying in spite of consequence,Clarence Jordan.

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.

How is your faith today?

Supernatural Love

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If you confess to be a Christian, how do people know?

It’s not because you wear a t-shirt, have a bumper sticker on your car or post encouraging words on Facebook.

The one defining aspect of a true Christian is love. And not the easy kind of love, loving those who love you in return. The defining mark of a follower of Jesus is to do what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

That is a great memory verse, easy to say…until someone begins to persecute you.

I have heard dozens of people, claiming to be followers of Jesus, who say, “well I just can’t love that person, that’s just the way it is.”

The Bible says if you can’t love your enemies, you are not saved. But, the good news is that being filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the power to love our worst enemy.

Our actions are determined by our identity.

Loving as Jesus commands can seem impossible. Even loving our brothers and sisters in the church can be challenging at times. But we can love by the power of God living in us.

We need to remember our identity in Christ.

Abiding in Christ forms our identity, and as a result, abiding empowers love.

How do we know if we are abiding in Christ?

1 John 4:13 is the answer, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

Abiding in Christ is only possible because God fills us with His presence in the Holy Spirit. And notice the verse says, “we abide in Him and He in us”. We don’t even begin to fully grasp that. We don’t know what we have. We who have confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, and submitted to his lordship in our lives, have the presence of God abiding in us by the Holy Spirit. And this abiding presence of God leads to love.

1 John 4:16 states that love is a product of abiding in God. As followers of Jesus, we are the temple that God chooses to dwell in and reveal His love to the world.

You and I are witnesses of the presence of God, it is an awesome privilege and responsibility. Are we displaying the Love of God to the world around us?

This is the way we grow as Christians. As we abide in Christ, spend time with his Word and in communion with him, we grow to love God more, we grow to love other believers more and we grow to love those who don’t know Jesus more, even our enemies. As we share the love of the Father with others, we experience more of His love, it is a blessed exchange.

“God is love,” is not simply a statement in the Bible about the nature of God, it is the very foundation of our relationship with God and our neighbor. Loving one another isn’t simply a command to be obeyed, it is a privilege that flows from our relationship with God.

As we move to verse 17 and 18, we see another response to our abiding in Christ and he in us. Abiding produces love and love leads to confidence (1 John 4:17).

The Love of God has a goal, an intended completion and when it is perfected, we can face our final judgment before Christ with confidence.

Many churches today don’t like to mention the day of judgment. Judgment and Hell are more real than Satan would like us to believe. Jesus came to set us free from the fear of judgment (1 John 4:18).

Our world is controlled by fear. The word that John uses here to describe the fear of the coming judgment is “krisisphobia”. The Bible says that God has put eternity in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Whether we face it or not, every human being knows that there is an eternity outside of time here on earth and the one who created it all is going to hold us accountable for how we lived. Without Jesus and his perfect love, that is terrifying.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is the incredible gift of God’s grace, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and John can write in verse 17 that we can have confidence before God. Boldly coming before his throne of Grace as His beloved Children. There is no situation, no sickness, no difficulty, that we could possibly face that is beyond the power of God to carry us through it (Romans 8:35-39).  

In Matthew 22, Jesus gave the two greatest commands, “Love God and Love others”.

Love is a command. 1 John 4:19, is one of the simplest verses in the Bible to understand, “We love because He first loved us.God took the initiative and His love overflows from us to others.

But verse 20 states, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar…

If we do not love those around us as we are commanded to do, then we do not know the love of God, and it should cause us to live in fear and anxiety.

 “It is obviously easier to love and serve a visible man than an invisible God, and if we fail in the easier task, it is absurd to claim success in the harder” John Stott.

Verse 21 sums it all up, “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother”

When Jesus said we must love our enemies, it wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command. If we love God wholeheartedly, we will love our brother, including those who slander us and persecute us.  

Going back to my original question, if you confess to be a Christian, how does the unsaved world know?

It is hard, in fact it is impossible without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives empowering us to love as Jesus loved. Do you know the love of Jesus?

God is Love

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“God is Love” is a fundamental statement about the nature of God.

AB Simpson on God is love, “God is not justice. God is not wisdom. God is not power. God has all these attributes but none of them is great enough to constitute His essence. But love is His very nature and in love all other attributes find their completeness.”

Satan will constantly attempt to twist the world’s understanding of the nature of God. The Bible says “God is love,” the world says, “love is love.” The world defines love as something that we possess and usually this is a selfish desire and sexual in nature. The world ignores the pure and essential nature of God as being the source of love.

This does not mean that only Christians are capable of love.  We must remember that we are created in the image of God and have His nature of love within us.  However, Satan has perverted it and twisted it into something selfish.

See what Jesus said in John 15:12-13. Love is a commandment, it is a commitment, it is not an optional extra driven by feelings.

1 John 4:7 reads, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Real, authentic love has its source in God and gives evidence that we have been born again. This is not only loving people who love us in return, but also the ability to love those who are hurting us and annoying us, loving our enemies. This is the supernatural love of God that He displays on our behalf.

Verse 8 is a verse that should make us very uncomfortable, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” The verse doesn’t say, “anyone who does not love his friends…does not know God.”  No, anyone who doesn’t love, including those not displaying love to those who are unlovely, those who are oppressing us, those who might reject us and hurt us, does not know God.

The great news of the Gospel is that God made the first move simply because we are not capable of loving this way. Verse 9 says, “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.”

This is something we need to be reminded of. Do you know how much you are loved?

God loves you so much that He sent His only son to free us from the bondage and penalty of separation from God. We don’t even begin to understand the magnitude of the phrase, “God sent His son.

1 John 4:10 reads, “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.

Jesus, the eternally existing, creator God, was sent to the earth by the Father. The Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always existed in perfect eternal communion and love. God doesn’t need us, but He loves us and made a way for us to be reconciled with Him. The only possible way to accomplish this was the spotless Lamb of God had to be sacrificed to atone for our sins. We were not looking for God, He reached out towards us. God took the initiative. God sent His son to die (Romans 5:8).

This was God’s plan from the beginning of time, and it was not a martyr dying in some horrible, cosmic mistake. Jesus willingly laid down his life, taking our place, and bearing the punishment that we deserved.

The word “propitiation” is a rich word that means, “An offering that turns away the wrath of God.

The holiness of God required that for us to be reconciled with Him, there needed to be a sacrifice for the penalty of our sins. We deserved punishment, but Jesus took the punishment that we deserved so that we can be saved.

Christian love is based on this. It is not simply excusing sin or allowing someone to do whatever they want. Christian love is standing in the gap, and it is in the shape of a cross.

Considering this great truth, we have been forgiven and set free, so how are we to respond?

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11.

Sadly, Christians are not known for their love of others. Many people outside the church only know the church for what we condemn, and not for our love for them. These may be people who oppose our message and even try to harm us and the church. What did Jesus say about these people? (See Matthew 5:44-45).

God does not show partiality in His love for people, and as children of God, neither can we.

Loving others is not simply an obligation that we have to perform out of duty. Rather, as we grow in our walk with the Lord and the Holy Spirit transforms us, we naturally begin to display the love of God for those around us.

Why does God call us to love others?  1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”

By living out the love of God, we display the nature of God for others to see. This becomes a practical display of the Gospel. This will always cost us something, but this is the normal Christian life (see Romans 5:5).

Everyone faces crisis and loss in their lives, and pain has a way of cutting through the fluff of life and the image we want to portray. When the crisis comes, how do we love?

Will we love sacrificially and with endurance? It is usually in times of crisis that community is born and strengthened.

We need to remember that as we display the love of God, we display the nature of God. There are few things in life that can possibly be more rewarding or more important.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God…”