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The Truth About Jesus
1 John 5:6-12
When we walk into a used car lot or are listening to a politician or are talking to someone in customer service, we just want to know that what we are hearing is the truth, that when we walk away or hang up the story we heard will not change. John seeks to assure his readers that though other versions of the story about Jesus he has told are circulating, the one he gave them is the unchanging truth. Jesus is fully God and fully man and this insures that when we place our faith in him for eternal life we will never be disappointed. There is more to saving faith than just knowing facts, but knowing the truth about Jesus is indispensable to salvation.
The Incarnate Deity
Philippians 2:5-8
Solomon was keenly aware that the beautiful temple he had built could not house the God whom the highest heaven could not contain. God is everywhere present and cannot be limited to a single place, and yet the divine Son of God came to be born of a human mother. This doctrine of Scripture is a profound mystery, and yet it is not meant merely to be a deep doctrine for study by theologians. It is the basis for exhortation that describes how every believer is to live. The incarnation of the eternal God is meant to teach his people what it means to live selflessly in this world. We welcome the celebration of the Savior not just because he came to die for us, but to show us how to live for God.
Love That Changes Us
1 John 4:16-21
There are some doctrines that require much thought and prayer to comprehend because they deal with matters concerning an infinite God. Then there are those that even a young child can grasp, like the words, ‘Jesus loves me.' When a sinner comes to trust that an infinitely holy God really loves him, it changes him forever. Fear of Judgment Day subsides, and love for fellow Christians, even those who are sometimes hard to love, grows. Some seem to think this love is optional, that they can live apart from the church where Christians gather to worship their Lord and still be saved. John says they are mistaken. It is our love for our brothers that gives us confidence we are saved.
The Spirit's Teaching Ministry
1 John 4:13-15
How do we know that we are saved? We are often told we know because of the indwelling Spirit of God. But how does that assure us we have been born again? John focuses in these verses on an important aspect of the Spirit's work that brings us the assurance we seek, his teaching ministry. By convincing us of the truth of Scripture concerning who Christ is and how he came to save us, the Spirit establishes for us a firm foundation for our faith. At the heart of this teaching is the truth about Jesus as the divine Son of God. There is only one Savior and he has the ability to save us because he is God by nature. Assurance then may involve feelings, but it is based on Scriptural facts.
Our Father's Love and Ours
1 John 4:7-12
On the heels of talking about the need to make spiritual judgments about others John comes back to the subject of love for each other, perhaps to counteract the tendency for testing the spirits to descend into being hypercritical. If we want to make our mark on the world as Christians, one of the best ways of doing so is to prove our spiritual heritage by loving others. Much nonsense passes these days for love, but our concept of what love is is defined by the character and actions of God. The world may not be able to see our Lord with their eyes, but they can see him in our lives if we love others as first loved us by sending his Son to be our Savior.
Test The Spirits
1 John 4:1-6
Before we buy a car we read reviews, bring it to a mechanic, talk to people who own a similar one and take it out for a test drive. We want to test a car before we buy it, but people think we are being overly exacting when we test a faith that is meant to assure us of eternal life. John does not suggest we examine those who wish to introduce new elements to the gospel message, he demands it. There are many false teachings out there about who Christ is and how we are to be saved, and he insists we carefully test them. We may be branded as hypercritical when we dismiss some faiths as false, but eternal life is too important to allow the lines between true and false to be blurred.
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.


Who Is the True God?
1 Kings 18:20-40
Who is the true God? Most in our culture are ready to leave the door open that there may be other gods that other people can worship and get to heaven. The Biblical answer to the question though leaves no room for indecisiveness or toleration of the possibility of other gods. There is no spiritual middle ground between faith that the God of Scripture is alone the true God and there are other routes to spiritual life outside of our Lord. There are others who claim their god offers everything one could want in this world, but they always fail the test when it is critical. There is only One who can offer life, abundant life, eternal life. We either choose to follow him or die in our sin.
Job's Restoration
Job 42:1-17
Job was finally restored to his position as a man respected by his friends and community, but it did not come about in the way he thought it would. He had been waiting for a confrontation with the Lord in which he would prove that the Lord had treated him unfairly. Job's restoration however came about in the same way that every saint's has. It came through a confession of the glory of God that is evident in his goodness and justice, and of the sinner's ignorance in thinking God could ever do wrong. Sometimes we are sorely tempted in difficult periods of life to question whether God cares or whether he can help us, but we learn from Job that trusting him is always the best course.
God Is In Control
Job 40:1-41:34
Do you feel like you are drowning in debt, that your children you love are heading down a dangerous path that you cannot turn them from, that forces are at work in our culture that will lead inevitably to ruin? To make matters worse, does it seem that nobody cares enough to help you cope and that things are so bad not even God can (or will) do anything to change them? This describes Job's feelings manifested in his complaint that he was not being treated fairly. The Lord describes beasts that are beyond man's ability to control just to remind Job that what man cannot control, God can. Job may not have seen it, but God was in control of Job's life, and he was still a just and good God.
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.