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Blessed Assurance
1 John 3:19-24
By all accounts William Cowper was a man of great godliness and yet struggled to find assurance that he was saved. Those who have been plagued with doubts about their standing with God long to find the comforting conviction that they are truly one of God's people, but do not find it in baseless assurances that offer little more than, ‘Don't worry, everything is fine.' God gives us signs to help us know that things are right between us and him, signs like love for our brothers and an eagerness to obey him, along with a belief in Scriptural doctrines like Jesus as both divine and human. Ultimately though, if we want assurance we must look away from ourselves and to the God who is full of grace.
Love One Anothe
1 John 3:11-18
There are all kinds of ways that people use to identify themselves as Christians, but none are more biblical or more needful than for us to show a love for our brothers. It is essential though that this love be defined by Scripture, not by the world's kind of love. Cain illustrates what Christian love is not like, and negative examples are useful. He makes it clear that lack of love for others is no small matter. What is needed though is a good example, and there is none so good as Christ's in this. Jesus' willingness to sacrifice so that those he loved could enjoy eternal life is the height of love. More often than not though, our love is demonstrated in more ordinary yet still important small ways.
Whose Side Are You On?
1 John 3:7-10
It is easy when we have been duped to pin the blame on the guy who misled us. But what if we were warned about this guy and others like him? What if we were told about the things that should make us suspicious of his ways before he came along? John has been warning the church about the antichrists and their rebellion against God's truth found in Christ. He offers some markers to help us identify those on the Lord's side and those who are not. We are at war with those who distort and subvert the truth about the way to salvation so as to lead people down that wide path to hell. If we do not learn to identify them, we leave them to continue in their spiritually disastrous ways.
Pursuing Holiness as Sinful Saints
1 John 3:4-6
A man tells you he loves his wife yet does not enjoy being around her, does not want to do anything she asks him to and has no desire to change to make her life more pleasant. That is a good picture of the man who says he loves the Lord but has no desire to walk with him in holiness or to turn from his sinful ways. The connection between loving Jesus and following him in holy living is unbreakable. To the one whose life has been renewed by grace there is no such thing as a small sin that we can just learn to live with. We may still live as sinners, but if we are Christian we will not live long in sin before we are anxious to turn from it and walk with Christ again.
Encouraging God's Children
1 John 2:28-3:3
Do your duty because if you do not obey God's word you are a liar for saying you love him. That is a true statement, but if that is all we have to motivate us for godly living we are going to find being faithful is very difficult. John though had more to say about obedience, words that were more encouraging. He calls on us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus' example and his return. Both these ought to be a pleasure for those who love him, an encouragement to remain on the path he walked. We see others we thought strong leave the faith and doubt grows about ourselves. John assures us that God's promise is reliable: we are his children already, and things will only get better.
Faith In Christ Alone
1 John 2:22-27
What if there is a way to reinforce and heighten the strength of our spiritual life? Would we not want to add such a path to our faith in Christ so that we might not serve him even more faithfully? The foundations of the church were under attack from those who acknowledged the greatness of Christ but wanted to add something to her faith that would grow even better Christians. John calls the saints back to their foundation which is faith in Christ alone as the way to please their Lord. The departure of some to pursue another path was discouraging, but it was not a sign the gospel was deficient. Discouragement need not lead to failure if we hold fast to Christ alone as our Savior.
Warnings About Dangers At Hand
1 John 2:18-21
Warnings about global warming that threatens coastal cities with flooding from rising seas in 50 to 100 years does not alarm many people. John's warnings though are against a ‘right now' threat to the church from an enemy that was already within her walls. The antichrists among them did not just stand against Christ, they offered themselves and their message instead of Christ. Sometimes they accomplished great things to bolster their image, but their front was always an appealing one. Their departure left some saints dispirited, but John brings encouragement with the reminder that the Spirit and the Word offer truth that assures them God will keep them to the end.
Do Not Love This World
1 John 2:15-17
Christians are not ascetics intent on denying themselves all the pleasures derived from the things the Creator has placed in our world. When received with thanksgiving there are many things of this world we can enjoy. The world as John himself defines it in this letter is that place where people, entertainment and ideas by their very nature incline us to turn from the path God wants us to walk. The world that leads us away from God may be found in our heart, in the things we see or in a desire to take credit for things God has done for us. No matter how appealing, we are to flee from these things. After all, the pleasures they bring can last only for this lifetime at most.
Our Spiritual Family
1 John 2:12-14
Before he warns them about not loving the world, John encourages the church by writing to them as a part of his spiritual family. Only those who have come to the Father by faith in the Son are able to live as Scripture demands of mankind. He writes to them as children who have found the joy of know God as their loving Father, obedience to whose will is their desire and delight. He writes to them as fathers who are mature in the faith so that youthful exuberance does not carry them away from the truth that leads to eternal life. He writes to them as young men whose energy and devotion bring them to stand on the front lines in defense of our faith.
Third Test For Genuine Faith
1 John 2:7-11
Is the faith you profess a genuine, saving faith? John says that if you continue to walk in the darkness, that is, to reject the truth he preached about Jesus as the Word of life, then it is not. He goes on to say that if you have no interest in or intention to obey the Lord's command, then your profession is a lie. In these verses he adds a third test of genuine faith, a love for your Christian brothers and sisters. Without a love for our Christian family members that puts their good above our own comfort, we can talk all we want about our faith and Scriptural truth, and it will mean nothing. The truth that changes us for eternity will not lead us to willingly turn our backs on fellow believers.
Assurance of Salvation
1 John 2:3-6
We are encouraged when young to get a college degree so we can be assured of a well paying career. We are offered auto, flood and medical insurance so we can face unknown disasters with assurance we can make it financially. People find assurances about their future a great comfort. Those who actually give thought to eternity want that kind of assurance. God offers it as the birthright of those who come to him through faith in Jesus. Unfortunately some find assurance when they should not. To avoid this disaster John offers in very stark terms the role that obedience to our Lord's demands play in this. In summary he says, if we do not obey him we have no part in his salvation.
The Advocate for Sinful Saints
1 John 2:1-2
John has corrected two errors in the church. The first says those who claim to be Christian but live as they did before receiving new life are liars. The second says redemption is already so effective that they sin no more. The thoughtful Christian has holiness as his goal but knows he has not yet reached that goal. When this disturbing truth hits us, how are we to deal with it? Part of that answer is to keep in mind that we have a heavenly Advocate on our side who will never abandon us. Whether our need is forgiveness or strength for temptation, Jesus is there before the Father as our Defender. His case is not built on our innocence, but on his sacrifice, thus he is always heard.
Biblical View of Sin
1 John 1:8-10
John wrote to a church where some thought too little of the importance of living a holy life. Others there though thought to little of how awful sin was and so said they were without sin. Many today do this by redefining their sin as too small to condemn, or the product of their genes or environment so they are not responsible for their actions. To consider our sin unworthy of God's judgment is possible only for the deluded. If we understand Scripture then we will know ourselves to be sinners and know that holiness is essential to Christian life. How then do we as believers deal with our sin. We do so by recognizing it, confessing it, and seeking God's purifying work in our heart.


Job Questioned About Animals
Job 38:39-39:30
Job felt that he had endured too much suffering unfairly and wanted to set his case before the Lord to show God where he had gone wrong. Did Job really think that God had never had to deal with the issue of the innocent having to suffer? Did he think that God was not watching and thus was ignorant of what was going on in Job's life? Did he think there were things beyond control in this world so that God could not always bring about the good he wanted? Did he believe God did not know how to hand out his blessings in such a way that all were treated fairly? These are some of the questions the Lord is dealing with as he questions Job about how he would handle creation.
Questions About Inanimate Creation
Job 38:1-38
Job had been waiting all book long for an audience with God. The time came and his well planned defense of his complaint about being treated unfairly seem to have vanished the instant God appeared. Instead, he is interrogated and is quickly shown that he lacks the qualifications for properly judging the Lord's ways. He thought there was something wrong with how God was doing things, but his ignorance proved that he had no way of knowing whether God had chosen the right way or not. The Lord's ability to control all of creation to bring about his good purpose is demonstrated over and over. How could Job see that and still wonder if God was right in how he treated Job?
Living With Divine Mystery
Job 36:22-37:24
When clouds begin to gather, the winds pick up in intensity and lighting flashes brighten the whole sky, we do not get all that excited, at least if we are in our home. Walking out in the open along the ridge of a mountain that same scene will seem much more threatening. Job was exposed to the storm in his life and had a hard time understanding why it was happening. Elihu tries show that God controls such storms and his purposes are good. Just because we do not see why storms and the suffering they bring must come does not mean God does not have his purpose. We must confess with the saints that God knows what is best, and even darkness can be used to give it to us.
Listening For God in Trials
Job 36:1-21
The wise and blameless Job was struggling with his faith and the younger Elihu claimed he had some answers. Was he arrogant, or was his knowledge truly based on truth from God? Whatever our opinion here, there are some things he said that Job would have done well to consider. It seemed to the suffering Job that God gave little thought to his treatment of men, but Elihu insists men do matter to God. If they must suffer, it is because it is part of God's plan to bring good to their life. It is not whether a man suffers in life or not that identifies him as righteous, it is how he responds to suffering. Rather than becoming bitter, we are called to trust in God in those times and listen for his voice.
What Good Is Doing Godd?
Job 35:1-16
Most of us have been at that moment when danger was escalating out of hand or frustrations were rising beyond our breaking point and wonder why God was not coming at that instant to rescue us. We begin to question God's goodness or justice because we feel like God owes it to us as his people to always make our way smooth and easy. One of Elihu's basic arguments is that our deeds, sinful or righteous, can do nothing to affect the transcendent God so that he owes us something for our good deeds. This is especially true of those who do not know God or have no reverence for him. Should we ever fall into such thinking let us pray for a friend like Elihu who will correct us.
God Is Just
Job 34:1-37
The question Job raised about God's justice is no small matter. Without a divine standard of right and wrong that applies to all men, we are hopelessly lost in a world of conflicting ideas about what is just that can never be resolved. Job doubts about this justice put him in league with wicked men. Elihu argues that if God is not just then his kingdom cannot stand, but since he is the eternal Lord we know it will. God's justice is perfect because he knows all the evidence so his judgments are based on facts. Also, there is nothing secretive about his justice that leaves people wondering if it is fair. He insists that even if delayed, God's judgments are perfect.
Plea To Hear Good News
Job 33:1-33
Elihu was younger than Job and his friends and so had remained silent out of respect for their age, but as one who is filled with the breath of the Almighty he feels he still has something to say. He approaches Job in a humble spirit and makes an effort to argue based on what Job said as he listened rather than on false assumptions of his sinfulness. Job complained that God was not listening to him, but Elihu said God was speaking but Job was just not listening. Job's suffering was not a sign that God was ignoring him, but was instead a sign that the Lord was seeking to lead him. Elihu's message seems to speak out of a desire to see Job's name cleared, and not merely to win an argument.
A Time To Speak
Job 32:1-22
Have you ever heard a discussion on an important matter thinking you would hear something informative only to hear nothing new or helpful? You find yourself wanting to offer your input, but out of respect for others you refrain. When does the time come that due to the importance of the subject you feel compelled to speak up? Elihu had reached that point. He was concerned that the justice of God was being questioned and no adequate defense on his behalf was forthcoming. Elihu believed he had a word from God and not speaking up would have been wrong. When we know from the Word answers to hurting people who need to hear His answers, we must be ready to offer them.
Job's Final Defense
Job 31:1-40
Other than a very few words in response to God's speech, these are Job's final ones in this book. He lists a number of sins others might have thought him guilty of and pleaded ‘not guilty' to each. He went further than just avoiding sin. He guarded his steps so he steered clear of the path that led to them. Whether it was the kind of sin everybody recognized as evil or the kind of sin that was widely overlooked, Job took great effort to avoid it. He did not act kindly just to impress men, he treated others with kindness because he was a kind man. As a righteous man what he wanted most of all was for God to let others know he was truly a good man, to vindicate his good name.
The Loss of Dignity
Job 30:1-31
The rebuke of a righteous man is a kindness (Ps 141:5), but unfortunately Job had sunk so low that even the basest of men were mocking him. Since God had apparently turned against Job, the wicked felt free to taunt him, and that scorn stung. Job's suffering at God's hands had gone on so long that he felt sure life's end was at hand. He called to the Lord for mercy, but received only a cold, cruel response. He sought only the same mercy he had shown other men, but found not a single friend to help. The one glimmer of hope in these words is that he was still speaking to God. Even when it seems to do no good, may we continue to come to our God in faith that he hears.
Longing For Lost Blessings
Job 29:1-25
Job's great losses had led to a bitterness so some are tempted, like his friends, to say that his problem was sin and a lack of faith. But the problem with this assessment is that the losses that most disturbed Job were not for worldly wealth and glory. He missed the days when he walked with God as a friend. He missed that wisdom sought after by others because it was just and good. He missed the chance his wealth had provided to show benevolence towards the needy. In other words, he missed those blessings that God so often promised to his faithful people. Job's desires in this were godly, but what he did not know was that they come to full fruit only when Jesus returns to reign.
Wisdom Beyond Our Reach
Job 28:1-28
Men can do some amazing things in pursuit of those things they count to be worth the effort. They willingly sacrifice things of importance like human companionship and risk to their health and life to acquire those things they value as treasures. Wisdom is a treasure more valuable than anything this earth can offer, and yet as Job had discovered, it cannot be found or purchased for any price by man on his own. People can do amazing things, but they cannot discover wisdom. As it turns out, wisdom cannot be found by knowing where to look for it, but only by turning to Who has it. The starting point to finding wisdom is fearing God who is the only source of this treasure.
A Warning to the Accuser's Friends
Job 27:1-23
When circumstances cast a shadow of doubt over a good man's name, some are jump on the bandwagon and join with others in questioning his character. Job continues to cling to his conviction that he is innocent of the sins his friends have accused him of and calls on the Lord to judge them as they have said the Lord would judge him. They spoke from a position of apparent safety and security, but Job warns them that falsely accusing a righteous man could lead to loss of that security overnight. It is a dangerous thing to accuse and revile the person God counts to be righteous. There are times to call men to account for their sins, but we must be careful not to defame God's saints.