Salvation Test

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.  – 1John 3:10

The NIV starts verse 10 out this way, ‘This is how we know’.  All throughout Scripture, obedience and love are the hallmarks of a true believer.  1 John 3:10 answers the question every believer should test themselves on: how do I know that I am saved?

God assures believers of their salvation through the Spirit. (1John 3:24)  A believer’s renewed heart compels them to obey the will of the Father in obedience to His word and to love God and others in deed and truth.  The presence of Christ in a believer is unmistakable to them over time.

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. – 1John 3:24

Obedience and love.  Like all of Scripture, 1 John chapter 3 continues to return to these two hallmarks of a believer.  As you read through today’s Scripture: 1 John 3 and Psalm 41, be on the lookout for these.  As you enjoy the fellowship of Christ today, feel the Spirit leading you to obedience and love.  

If you have not committed your life to Christ, placed your trust in Him alone and repented from trusting in all other promises, imagine for a moment what your day would be like if you had.  Your whole life made new.  Ever going with a Companion who will reign in your heart and will never leave you.  A companion who is Master over all, King of Kings, who leads you beside still waters in righteousness, who makes you to lie down in green pastures. 

 

3rd Heaven

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?  This was the question posed during an opening devotional at a business meeting last week.  Answers ranged from, “I don’t think about Heaven very much – I don’t think I get it and so I just trust” and “I’m ashamed to say, I’ve had thoughts in the past about the continuous chanting and it worries me – will I be bored there?” to “I look forward to reuniting with loved ones” and “I’m looking forward to seeing Jesus face-to-face.”

As we prepared to consider business here on Earth the scripture reading for the devotional was from Colossians 3:2, ‘Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.’  The discussion was Heaven.  The issue, we all agreed, was that we should be thinking about heaven more.  

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?

Have you ever been reading a book, listening to a sermon, or on your knees in prayer and been completely overwhelmed with a flood of emotion to commit everything to the LORD?  This is the time, I want to let go of everything I want and give it all to the LORD, I’m done with doing it my way, I always mess everything up, I want to rest and trust the LORD with everything: every moment, every thought, every desire.  

Expressing this feeling in words is challenging.  Perfect freedom.  Perfect trust.  Perfect peace.  If I’ve gotten close at all you may be recalling your own testimony of how you came to Christ or a renewed commitment to Christ along the way.  This feeling, in my estimation, is as good as it gets this side of life’s great divide.  

However, for me, this feeling is all too shortly followed by a failure.  My flesh realizes a victory as I choose, say, entertainment over time in the Word, etc.  

Still, If even for a brief moment, that feeling touches my soul as if to say, ‘this is what you were created for.”  I can not wait to be done with the fight against the flesh.  Until then, and through the power of the Spirit, we fight the good fight.

God would You bless us with more and more freedom from self as we wait on You?  Please be gentle with us LORD.  May our souls find rest in You.  Amen.  

Psalm 27:13-14
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Today’s reading: James 5 and Psalm 27

 

Sources for study on Heaven:

Sources for study on eternal rewards:

Among Us

Today’s Reading; James 4 and Psalm 26

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1)

Among you” is translated by some scholars as “in you“. When I reflect on the many battles in my life this would be a consistent one. I understand that some of the many struggles we can face are not always visually seen by others. These struggles are faced “in you” and can internally impact your mind and heart.  These struggles can take away the joy you can fill into others. Our earthly desires, worries, and fears are tucked back in our mind and the wrestling match of external, desires are grappling with our internal thoughts and heart. Leaving us questioning within our heads and walking through this earthly life half-minded.

James pastoral counsel can lead us back to place of love, grace, and peace.  Personally, as I start back to the school year with much excitement. In my mind, my earthly demands, desires, and fixed mindset moments can make room for questioning thoughts and actions. My thoughts can be like a thief that robs me of being truly “in the moment” by wondering what is to come. It can be hard to be at peace with anyone else when you are not at peace with yourself. That’s what makes being in the word so valuable.   I’m reminded, we need to turn to our Father who provides all the peace we need. That God is with us all the time and I need to stop trying to do things my way.  Jesus said,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

As we continue to read through James we are reminded to simply ask. Call on Him at any and all times. In addition, when we pray we are to pray with the right motives.  James 4:3 We pray with faith and according to God’s will not ours.  This will detangle the internal mess that can leave you walking through our day with this internal struggle.  Here are a couple complimenting verses that God’s living word provides for us to pray through.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1John 5:14).

But when we ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).

It’s easy to get caught up in everything going on day by day, minute by minute. My prayer is that we not let our external worldly desires distract our internal mind and heart knowing that God has an eternal place waiting for us.  Be encouraged and don’t rob yourself of who we belong to. Steal back the moments God desires us to enjoy. James reminds us that the time is now to let go of these worries and fears.

“Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”    (James 4:14).

Today as I read one of daily devotionals Jesus Calling had this perfect reminder.

Trust Me in the midst of a messy day. Your inner calm- your Peace in My Presence- need not be shaken by what is going on around you. Though you live in this temporal world, your innermost being is rooted and grounded in eternity. When you start feeling stressed, detach yourself from the disturbances around you. Instead of desperately striving to maintain order and control in your little world, relax and remember that circumstances cannot touch My Peace.

Seek God’s Face, and He will share His mind with you, open your eyes to see things from His perspective. The peace I give is sufficient for you.  

Dear God,

Thank you for all our writers and readers. We celebrate and praise your living word and understand how your words breathe through us. Please continue to encourage us to look to you at all times and not fall into the half-minded living of the world. You call us son and daughter, salt and light.  Help us to trust your word always and share this good news with everyone. God we ask you to help us break the chains of  inner struggles and help us to know we can walk in victory with you always. Amen

Resources

Jesus Calling August 26th ~ Sarah Young

David Jeremiah Study Bible

The Village Church App August 2017 ~ Marked by Matt Chandler

Logos Bible ~ James 4

 

 

A Believer’s Battle with Sin

Sanctification is the separation of the believer from his sin.  This separation is a believer’s ongoing struggle and a battle with himself.  It is internal.

In chapter 7 of Romans, Paul’s internal struggle with sin reveals how sin wages war against the Christian.  Do you struggle with sin?  (God’s word says you do. Romans 3:23, 1John 1:8, Isaiah 53:6)  If you are ready to admit that, the next step is to accept it.

The peace that comes with accepting how we relate to God (we are sinners that have turned away from Him and if we believe in Jesus our sins will be forgiven) will feel like a heavy load being lifted from you.  Remove the expectation that you need to be perfect to become a Christian or that once you become a Christian you will no longer battle with sin.

It is not about you being perfect – it is about Jesus being perfect.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christians motivations to hate sin and flee from it.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way, when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christian’s motivation to hate sin and flee from it.

Here are some notes from a sermon (first link in the resources below) on how sin battles with a believer:

  1. It is within us. James 1:14-15
  2. It is a battle of the mind, of our thoughts. Romans 7:23, 1Peter 1:13
  3. Victory is in Christ.
    1. Confess your sin to the LORD and ask his forgiveness. (1John 1:9, Proverbs 38:13)
    2. Ask the LORD for the strength to refuse to entertain sinful thoughts.  (2Corinthians 10:5, 2Timothy 1:7)
    3. Avoid evil. (Psalms 1:1-6, Matthew 18:7-9)
    4. Draw nigh to the LORD, pursue His Word.  (Philippians 4:8, Romans 8:6)

Here are three great sermons that will arm you with the truth regarding separating from your sin:

  1. Sanctification and Sins of the Mind
  2. Spiritual Stability, Part 5: Godly Thinking
  3. Breaking Sin’s Grip

Confused

Today’s Reading: Acts 19

One of the enemy’s best weapons is confusion.  When we are confused, we are unable to see things clearly.  It disrupts our decision-making process, often resulting in choices that are irrational and inconsistent with our core beliefs.  Many times, confusion is produced by the people around us.  We are continuously barraged with differing world views and alternative belief systems.  Want proof?  Take a closer look at today’s reading.  Did you notice in verse 29, “the whole city was in confusion?”

To understand the city’s confusion, we need to look back to verse 23.  Up until that point, Paul was actively spreading the word of God.  Acts 19:20 says that the Lord’s message Paul presented was “spread widely and had a powerful effect.”  Clearly, lives were being changed.  Not everyone, however, was happy about this.  In fact, a man named Demetrius was suddenly worried about the impact that these new beliefs would have on his business.  To combat this, he developed a strategy.  He knew, that it would be easy.  All he had to do was confuse people.

Demetrius starts with the economic conversation, encouraging them to consider the consequences of slowing sales.  It was enough to spark some fear, but not enough to start a rebellion.  To intensify their reaction, he adds confusion by suggesting that the magnificent goddess, Artemis will be robbed of her “great prestige.”  This was all it took.  The people were sufficiently overwhelmed by these significant changes.  The fear it stimulated caused their anger to boil (v18).  It wasn’t long before full on rebellion occurred and “everything was in confusion” (v32).

The sad reality is that we are subject to the same confusion.  J.I. Packer elaborates on this.  He says, “we are so consumed with great thoughts of man that we only have room for small thoughts of God.  Second, we are confused by modern skepticism.”  Is it any wonder that it’s one of Satan’s preferred weapons?  Thankfully, the Spirit who lives in us, is greater than the spirit who lives in this world (1 John 4:4).  When we arm ourselves with His truth, we win.  I have found a very practical way to avoid confusion.  It comes from remembering who God is and who I am.  The following affirmations, despite their simplicity, are powerful statements that bring clarity, hope, courage and refreshment.

I believe that God is who he says he is

I believe that God can do what God says he can do

I believe that I am who God says I am

I believe that I can do what God says I can do

God’s Word is alive and active in me

I believe God

 

Fully Known

     Fully known.  How do those words make you feel?  Peaceful?  Anxious? Calm?  Ashamed?  All of the above, maybe?  Does it depend on the situation, or maybe the person?  In John 8, our reading for today, Jesus makes it very clear that He knows the people around Him.  And not only does He know them, He FULLY KNOWS them,  He knows their thoughts, even when they don’t speak them aloud.  He knows their actions, even before they take them.  He knows them better than they know themselves.  He knows their hearts.

     Sometimes, Jesus reveals His knowledge of the people around Him in subtle ways.  For example, when He speaks to the crowd who accuses the woman of adultery, He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)  Jesus knew that each of the accusers was a sinner.  Yet He didn’t need to call each person out on his individual, specific sin to make His point clear.  When the crowd heard His words, “they went away one by one.”  (John 8:9)  Likewise, in his conversation with the woman accused of adultery, Jesus did not need to name her sin to make His point.  He simply says to her, “…go, and from now on sin no more.”  (John 8: 11)  Simple, and subtle.

    Later in John 8, however, Jesus reveals to the Pharisees that He knows them as well, and this time, He is less subtle.  In fact, He does not hesitate to name their sins.  Here are several examples:

– He knew that the Pharisees judged according to the flesh  (John 8:15)

– He knew that the Pharisees sought to kill Him, and He knew why –                            because His word had found no place in them (John 8:37) and because                      they couldn’t bear to hear His word  (John 8:43)

– He knew that the Pharisees did not believe Him  (John 8:45)

– He knew that the Pharisees did not know God  (John 8:55)

Not only does Jesus know the adulterous woman’s heart and the hearts of the Pharisees.  He also knows our hearts, yours and mine.  David confirms this in Psalm 139:1-4:   “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”    I think that David’s tone here is not one of embarrassment but one of relief.  He sounds thankful to be fully known by his Creator – and in this, David serves as a good example for us.

We, too, can give thanks that our God fully knows us and wants to have a relationship with us.  Any relationship deepens as we allow ourselves to be fully known by the other person, and our relationship with Jesus is no different.  Furthermore, relationships strengthen when we ourselves seek to more deeply know the other person as well.  Jesus, too, wants us to seek to know Him better.  I pray that the fact that we are fully known by our Creator gives us not anxiety and shame, but peace and comfort.  And I pray that we would seek to know Him better as we rest in the security that we are fully known, and fully loved.

 

And Peter

Our prayers are with the LaFrance’s.

Yesterday’s post highlighted the tearing of the curtain and the final price that was paid in full for our sin. It represents an opportunity for closeness to God.

In today’s reading (Mark 16) the angel has a message for Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James to carry. He tells them to go and tell it to Jesus’s disciples ‘and Peter.’

When I read this I thought to myself ‘what an interesting way to address a group.’ Knowing that the selection of words was precise I began to wonder why ‘and Peter’? My thoughts went to the message. It’s my understanding that ‘angel’ means messenger. So I can presume this angel had a message. Further, that every message has intended recipients. Also, that carrying a message includes seeing it is received. Could it have been, to ensure the task was completed and all the intended recipients received the message, that special note needed to be made for Peter to know the message was for him as well? that the angel knew Peter would not include himself in the category of the disciples without this special inclusion?

If so, considering how Peter must have felt, reminds me of so much scripture that had yet to be revealed calling us to hold fast, (Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 10:23, 1Thessalonians 5:21, Revelation 2:25, Revelation 3:3) remain salty, (Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34) and overcome in the face of trails. (Romans 12:21, James 1:21, 1John 5:4) Praise God for His Word! It encourages me that we need not be perfect to be useful to God more that we need not try to do it on our own. Such a burden would certainly leave one feeling like they had fallen from the graces of God at the slightest misstep. Knowing that perhaps, Peter struggled with a lie that his poor performances may disqualify him from God’s service is a good reminder that I need to cling to these scriptures.

Indeed we have been purchased in our imperfection. God, knowing the future value, decided on the price and it was highest. By His grace and mercy we are made useful to Him. I’m reminded of a study on the armor of God. Specifically, the shoes.

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; – Ephesians 6:15

To make ready for battle in the good news that we have made peace with God. We have made peace with God and so we are on God’s side. God is with us! He will not leave us. We should not be without this peace when working for the LORD and fighting the good fight. (Ephesians 6:10) The truth stays us and gives us firm footing to complete the work God has given us to do. (Isaiah 41:13, Psalm 27:1, John 16:33, Romans 8:17-18, 1Corinthians 15:57, Philippians 4:13)

God has given us His armor. May we all use it well. Amen.

 

Photo: Raphael – Christ’s Charge to Peter

A Love Like No Other

Mark 12

Today’s reading is Mark 12, and we will focus on Mark 12:30-31. Jesus tells us the greatest and 2nd greatest commandment when asked by a scribe. He says…

“And you shall love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Let’s then ask the question my four-year old son asks many times daily, “Why?” Growing up, there were times when I wondered what made Jesus death different than many other people throughout history who had been wrongly put to death.

Romans 3:23 and 6:23 provide an explanation. Romans 3:23 states, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” James 4:17 even tells us that we sin not just by what we do, but by what we don’t do. The beginning of Romans 6:23 tells us, “the wages of sin is death.” I think it is often overlooked that sin is singular here. Many people mistakenly think that if they do more things right than wrong, and if they are a “good person,” they will go to Heaven, but just one sin separates us from God and brings us condemnation. I love the picture often used to tell the Gospel which shows us on one side and God on the other side of a large crevice with sin and Hell at the bottom. We are separated from God due to our sin and there is no way to get to the other side until we lay the cross down, which Jesus died on for us, as a bridge to bring us together with God.

Romans 5:8 tells us, “God shows us His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” We did nothing to deserve this. These verses answer my question growing up as to why Jesus’ death on the cross is different and so important. Only God, who is without sin, can justify us and bring us together with Him as one by grace through his perfect son Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9 says, “(God) who saved us and called us to a holy calling not because of our works, but because of his own purpose and grace, which He gave in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” He did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. No number of good deeds can bring us together with God. Only His grace can do that through Jesus’ death on the cross and our belief in Him. Because He did this, 2 Corinthians 5:15 says that we are called to live for Him and not for ourselves.

Think about if you would be able to love your spouse, parent, or child the same if they sinned against you every hour of every day? This is what we do to God, and He still loves us more than we could ever love another human being because His love in original Greek is “agape” which means unconditional love.

So now that God has given us this free gift of grace through Jesus, how can we not love Him immensely and feel called to give that same love and grace to our neighbors which He tells us to do in Mark 12:31? In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus tells Peter that we are to forgive our neighbor over and over again, just as He does us. 1 John 14:9 says, “we love because He first loved us.”  I think it is very neat how John 3:16 that many know so well says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Then, 1 John 3:16 correlates with that and says, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers (and sisters.)”

I’ve heard non-believers say that if going to Heaven is just about praising and worshipping God for eternity, then there is no way I want to go there. This makes my heart ache when I hear this because they do not know God’s love. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” I wish I could say that I connect with God’s love as deeply and as often as He wants and I should, but I don’t. However, there are moments in church when we are standing and praising God in song when I feel that connection and oneness with God and His love. I don’t want the song to ever end, and I think to myself, “if this is what Heaven will be like then I can’t wait to get there and spend forever like this.” His love fills me up and gives me peace like nothing I can describe in these moments.

My prayer this day for all of you and for myself is that we connect with and feel God’s love more today and every day and then that we share that love with others.

My close friends will laugh if they read this because they probably could have easily guessed that at some point, sooner rather than later, I would reference the lyrics of a song by my favorite band Sister Hazel. I don’t know if this song was written with Christ’s love in mind, but His love is what I think of when I hear it. Here are the lyrics below. Check it out on you tube…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azq8hqLrRnU

Or better yet..download it.

This Kind of Love

This kind of love makes me feel ten feet tall

It makes all my problems fall

And this kind of trust helps me to hold the line

I’ll be there every time

 

This kind of love it’s what I dreamed about

Yeah it fills me up

Baby it leaves no doubt

This kind of love it’s why I’m standing here

It’s something that we can share

I can’t enough of this kind of love

 

This kind of hope is what I try to find

And now I can’t deny I believe

And this kind of faith is so unshakeable

It’s unmistakable

It’s bigger than me

 

This kind of love it’s what I dreamed about

Yeah it fills me up

Baby it leaves no doubt

This kind of love it’s why I’m standing here

It’s something that we can share

I can’t enough of this kind of love

 

Your love can move a mountain

It makes my world go round

It’s always there to guide me

I’m so lucky that I found

 

This kind of love is what I dreamed about

Yeah it fills me up

Well baby it leaves no doubt

This kind of love it’s why I’m standing here

It’s something that we can share

I can’t get enough of this kind of love

This kind of love

 

All I want for Christmas

Christmas time is something I look forward to all year round. I have been known to say “it’s almost Christmas” in June and July and I certainly do not follow the unwritten rule of waiting to play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. But now that Thanksgiving has past my excitement for Christmas seems a little more in place. One of the reasons I look forward to Christmas is that I really enjoy exchanging gifts. It helps me get out self, out of what I want and it helps me focus on others.

From today’s reading a header in Michah chapter 5 ESV reads ‘The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem’. God gives us a perfect example of being focused on others. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what we need. And on the ‘first Christmas’ He gave us the perfect gift. When we celebrate Christmas we all try to find that perfect gift. It requires us to know people and to be thinking about them, focused on them and wanting better for them. We give gifts the best way we know how.

This Christmas may we all consider giving the gift of ourselves to our Savior and to His children. May we all lay down our wills, our kingdoms, and allow Him to reign in our hearts. May we store up treasure in heaven by letting go of the stuff of this world and giving to those in need, that which we have been given in so much excess.

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” – Luke 14: 12-14

It’s almost Christmas!

Washing Feet

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. – James 5:9

Last week I got to reflect Jesus’s interaction with Peter when Peter was learning what it meant to get his feet washed and to wash others feet. Washing feet appears to be connected with forgiveness of sins. It seems to concentrate not on the judicial forgiveness, connected with salvation, but rather a regular sort of maintenance to ensure a right relationship with God while we sojourn here on earth. Put another way, we were washed head to toe and adopted into Christ’s family. We were saved. (John 13:10) Yet still, though we are saved, we accumulate dirt on our feet and need to have our feet washed by Christ if we want to commune with Him (John 13:8).  

I have heard this communion with Christ likened to a son who estranged his father. Perhaps he did something that his father could have no part in. This however does not mean the father disowns the child. The child retains his sonship. Yet the child needs to come to the father and make things right if the two are to reconnect on an intimate level. In my estimation several things need to happen in order for this communion to remain, in order for us to remain in Him and He in us.

  1. The child needs to recognize that they have accumulated dirt on their feet
  2. The child needs to desire clean feet
  3. The child needs to admit they can not avoid dirty feet on their own
  4. The child needs to let go of trying to wash their own feet
  5. The child needs to believe that the Father can clean their feet
  6. The child needs to run to the Father and let the Him clean their feet
  7. The key thing…

One last thing that seems to be essential in this process is the washing of others feet (John 13:12-15). The forgiving of others. The grace we’ve freely received and we are called to freely give. God has given us everything, but not to hoard, rather to share and make friends of others (Luke 16:9). If you are feeling distant from God, I have come to believe this a key question to reflect on:

whose feet should you be washing?

 

Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 18; James 5; Jonah 2; Luke 7

Suggestions for prayer: Ask God to help you understand the truth about your feet and the truth about how to wash others feet. Ask God to make you a merry, hysterical feet washer of others.  

For further study: Listen to these sermons on forgiveness and understanding communion with God from Jesus’ sermon on the Mount: