I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus gave up his own life for everyone. We owe each other our lives, too. Let’s say one of you is living life to the fullest, financially comfortable and stress- free. If you notice that one of your brothers or sisters needs basic necessities and you suppress your feelings of compassion, can God’s love exist in you at all? Children, don’t just say you love each other – prove it by how you treat each other.
This is how we know we exist in the truth: we can pacify our guilty consciences in front of God whenever our hearts condemn us. God is more powerful than our hearts and he knows everything! Loved ones, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we can be completely confident when we pray to God. If we ask him for something, he’ll give it to us. This is because we do what he’s asked and we listen to his commands.
These are his commands: believe in his son (Jesus, the king), and selflessly love each other. Everyone who carefully practices those commands is with God, and God is with them.
In Denver it’s illegal to drive a black car on Sunday.
In Ohio it’s illegal to run out of gas.
In Alabama it’s illegal to drive blindfolded.
In Arizona it’s illegal for a donkey to sleep in a bathtub.
In Hawaii it’s illegal to place a coin inside your ear.
There are several laws that most have never even heard of and there seems to be no shortage of ridiculous laws that definitely have a good story for their origin. The Jews had over six hundred laws and would often debate over which commands and laws were superior over the others. Was there an ultimate law that reigned supreme?
Jesus would echo the words of Moses in Matthew 22.37-40 and according to the Son of God, the ultimate command is a summary of faithful living. So the entirety of our purpose in life can be summed up in this one sentence,
“you shall love the LORD your God with your— everything.”
If you love God with everything; every area of your life will be in submission to His will. Your mental power and your strength must be combined to serve Him in unison, and even Paul recognizes how much easier said than done that concept is. In Mark 12.22 Jesus wraps it all together by linking the heart, soul, and strength together. This trifecta of our being can be tamed with discipline and utilized as a powerful force against evil. This is the key to loving Him with our everything.
In Romans one we find that Paul feels a great debt to the lost in the world around him because he’s got a message from above that people need to hear from him. He’s strongly convinced that if he doesn’t speak up, he hasn’t only failed spiritually but he’s failed the people who pass him by. Later in his letter he’ll write,
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” – Roman’s 10.1-4
From these verses we can learn a thing or two about the life of Paul and it serves as a mirror that reflects back to us our own priorities.
His heart: It’s filled with a desire to spread the message of salvation to others.
Paul is motivated by the amount of people walking around in darkness. What motivates us? What provokes us to action? For Paul, it was simple. There’s a great number of lost people in the world and we’ve been given an uncertain amount of time to make that number smaller.
His eyes: They’re looking for those who might be saved.
Paul is looking for those with a zeal for God, but who aren’t following Him correctly. There are people who are on fire for God, but their fire is misdirected. In other words, we should be looking for that fertile soil.
His mind: Understands that there’s only one law and one path that the saved are walking.
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. The righteous are the only people who truly believe. That belief is in the singular way to God. Paul was an effective soul winner because he was convinced that there are lost people who will remain lost if he doesn’t act. He was convinced that God’s way is the only way, and he is responsible for the opportunities to share that message with those God places in his life.
If our motivation isn’t to seek and to save the lost, our priorities must be rearranged.
When it comes to that angry friend, it doesn’t take 1,000 of them to affect you. It only takes one.
That one friend that has those anger issues can rub off on you. Their mindset, their reactions, and their sin will all rub off on you and you will learn their ways. The word “learn” is the idea of teach. This friend will teach you his ways and you will become his student. There was a study done on the influence of domestic violence and what it can do to not just the spouse, but to the children.
The study went on to reveal that almost 70 percent of kids that grew up watching their father beat their mother ended up being abusive to their spouse later on in life.
We don’t always realize that we are being taught. We don’t recognize that we are a student to something that we never wanted to claim as our teacher. We must be careful of our friendship with this dangerous man, or this concern will become a reality, and we will imitate his actions and ways.
Proverbs 22:25 says, “…Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself.” If you reject the command and ignore the concern mentioned in the previous verses, you will have to face the consequence. You will find yourself ensnared in anger. Genesis four shows us the consequence of anger. In verses 1-8, we are introduced to Cain and Abel. In this account we read that the anger of Cain caused his face to literally distort. This anger drove Cain to murder his brother. Now there have been times in the past that I’ve been mad at my brothers, but never angry enough to kill them. Cain’s anger had driven him to the point of murder. As a result, verses 10-14 show us that Cain’s life would never be the same again. Unchecked anger will ruin our lives, but more than that unchecked anger will ruin our soul.
The Better Health Channel did a study on the physical effects of uncontrolled anger which include:
High blood pressure
Digestion problems, such as abdominal pain
Skin problems, such as eczema
The Bible has done a study on the spiritual effect of anger, and side effects include
And the loss of your Soul
The underground trains at airports and subways will run over and over all day. When many of them reach the end of the line you hear a voice that tells you it’s the last stop. Then the train starts all the way back over and does it again. With anger there is no starting over. The things you say and the things you do cannot be erased. Proverbs 28:13 tells us that the fool lets loose his anger causing irrepairable issues. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.” Eskimo wolf hunters use a special technique to kill wolves. First, they coat a knife blade with animal blood and allow it to freeze. Then they stick the knife in the ground with the blade facing up. When a wolf smells the blood it comes over and begins to lick the blade with the frozen blood. The wolf continues to feverishly lick the blade faster and faster until just the bare blade of the knife is showing. The craving for blood is so strong that the wolf doesn’t even realize that his desire is being quenched by its own warm blood. The wolf is found in the morning next to the knife having killed himself because of his lack of self control. If we aren’t careful, the anger of our friend will become our own, and in the end it will cause the loss of our salvation.
Anger can affect so many areas of our lives. We can be angry at ourselves, we can be angry at others, we can even be angry at God. And this holds us back from our salvation.
If we are angry at ourselves for a past sin, the circumstances we were raised in, or the quality of our lives because of our own past decisions – this can hold us back from salvation.
If we are angry at others, a brother or sister at church, our parents or our friends – this can also hold us back from salvation.
If you’re angry at God, realize that He is the only One that can give you peace and cure you of that spiritual disease.
Don’t focus on the anger in your life, but on the love in Christ. The Love shown as men spit in His face. The Love shown as he was mocked. The Love as He was tied to a post, as He was scourged, as He carried His cross through the street. The Love shown as men drove nails through His hands. As they shoved the crown of thorns on His head…all of this and still He could look up at the Father and say, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” If anyone had the right to feel anger – it was Him. The Son of God did not go through all of that so anger could eat us up.
Don’t let anger keep you from the peace and love that Christ has to offer. And don’t let anger strip you of experiencing eternal life with Him.
Jesus wasn’t going around just trying to make enemies of anyone, but He was fearlessly living and telling the truth no matter the circumstances. What we read in Luke 11:37-54 is how the scribes, Pharisees, and experts on the Law were living by the gospel according to self. They looked really righteous and knowledgeable on the surface, but of course Jesus can see below the surface at what’s actually going on in the heart and mind. It seems that there are several reasons why Jesus offended these religious leaders on this occasion.
He Exposed “Surface Spirituality” (37-41). They were so obsessed with appearances, doing things to look good to others. Yet, Jesus said they were full of corruption and wickedness in their hearts. They knew how to look spiritual without being godly, a deadly condition!
He Exposed “Majoring In The Minors” And “Minoring In The Majors” (42). He doesn’t rebuke the attention to details, but says they neglected what really mattered when making gestures that appeared to show how scrupulous and careful their religion was. True religion is supposed to stand on huge pillars like divine justice and love. Operate from those qualities and you are well on your way to true righteousness.
He Exposed “Appearance-Driven Actions” (43-45). Jesus called them on their love of the chief seats and respectful greetings. Surely most people appreciate being appreciated, but such can never be what drives or motivates us to do praiseworthy things.
He Exposed “Hypocritical Holiness” (46). They were good at making rules others needed to follow while not bothering to live by those same rules. Beware holding others to a standard you do not submit to yourself. Here, these appear to be their own convictions which they bind on others rather than God’s laws.
He Exposed “Artificial Admiration” (47-51). They seemed to conclude that revering long-dead prophets was the spiritually acceptable thing to do, but they rejected and hated the greatest man in history–God in the flesh. While decorating the tombs of men their ancestors had slaughtered throughout the Old Testament, from Abel (Gen. 4) to Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:20-21)–like saying A to Z, they were actively fighting One even greater and ready to do the same to His disciples.
He Exposed “Wicked Watchdogs” (52). Jesus’ last accusation is as piercing as they come. He says they took away the key to knowledge. They refused to enter the kingdom, but they actively hindered others who were trying to enter. They made themselves the gatekeepers to God, a presumptuous but also misguided effort.
And did they humbly repent and change their ways when the Son of God called them out? No. Their pride overrode any other impulse, and they grew more hostile, plotting how they might trap Him in something He might say. They became more critical and vicious. They had hardened their hearts that much. The takeaway for me is abundantly clear. What do I do with Jesus’ will? Do I take to heart His admonitions and challenges, or do I allow sinful pride to eclipse my view of it? Do I dig my trenches deeper or do I allow His will to shape and influence me? I pray that I will choose the latter!
The fear I’m talking about is not the kind that tells us be cautious or keeps us from harm, it’s the kind that fills our hearts and minds with doubt, apprehension, and anxiety. When this fear keeps us from doing things that please God, things that he expects from us and commands of us, it is a big deal.
When preparing for this I was given the advice that we should speak about things we are familiar with. I say that because fear has kept me for a long time avoiding opportunities such as this. I have never given a devotional before tonight. It is because of that Fear I mentioned. This type of fear convinces us of things that aren’t true. It convinces you that you’re not good enough to get up here and speak. You are not qualified or educated enough to speak to a group of people; you care too much about what people think of you and the things you say. It convinces you that you are terrible at public speaking, you won’t speak well, or say the right things. This is my personal fear, but all of us here tonight deal with fears that keep us from doing what God wants us to do and what pleases him.
A great biblical example of this is:
Moses, in Exodus 3: 8-10 when God called him to go lead Israel out of Egypt and speak to pharaoh.
In vs 11 you can tell he is afraid because he says, “who am I that I should go to pharaoh and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” God is quick to reassure Moses “I will certainly be with you.”
He continues in chapter 4:1 to make excuses to God “what if they will not believe me or listen to my voice” So, God sent miraculous signs to help convince the people.
In 4:10 he basically said I can’t speak “I’m not eloquent, I’m slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So, God reminded him who made man’s tongue, have not I?! He then said He would be his mouth and teach him what to say.
And finally in vs 13 he even asked the Lord to send someone else. We should never get to this point.
We should always look to God, put our faith and trust in the Lord, because fear is not from God. He is a God of love and fear does not have to consume us.
We should always trust in God when we are afraid. If we draw near to God, he will cast out that fear. In Isaiah 41:10, God reassured Israel – “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”
II Timothy 1:7 reminds us that “God gave us a spirit NOT OF FEAR, but of power and love and self-control”.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you. So, we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” in Hebrews 13: 5-6
Ultimately, we can’t let fear keep us from doing what God has commanded of us – we are to go into all the world to spread the gospel with everyone. How can we do that if we carry around the burden of Fear.
In closing tonight, I want to ask each of us to think about what gets us out of our comfort zone when it comes to doing the will of God? Is it speaking to someone about Christ? Is it inviting our friends or co workers to come to worship service with us? Maybe having a Bible study with a complete stranger? Perhaps leading a devotional for the first time, or maybe leading singing.
Whatever those things are, we should set aside our fears, put our trust in God, let our hearts be full of Love, not Fear. We should be on fire for God as Jeremy said last week. We as Christians are capable of much more than we realize but how will we ever know those capabilities if we are too afraid to try.
Philippians 4:13 doesn’t say I can do some things….it says I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.
How amazing is it that we serve a God that loves us so much, and says he will always be with us, that he will never leave our side. He tells us time and time again we have no reason to be afraid.
(From Travis’ first-ever devotional delivered at Lehman on Wednesday night, 2/16/22)
As humans we have a hard time when it comes to focusing. Attention spans seem to be getting shorter and shorter. Goldfish have an attention span of about 5 seconds. I’m convinced that mankind will one day be on the same level if nothing changes.
While focus in our everyday lives can be a struggle, what about in worship? How can we improve our focus when we come together each week? Before we even assemble, we should be preparing to focus on worship.
Isaiah 29:13 says, “…Because this people draw near with their words, And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”
They drew near to God with words, just like we do in singing songs each Sunday.
They honored God with their lips, much like we do in our prayers each week. What they were saying sounded good! But, if our hearts are not in worship, we have failed God.
Isaiah writing on God’s behalf says that their “reverence consisted of tradition learned by rote.” This word reverence is the the Hebrew word for “fear.” You may have heard that every time you read the word “fear” in the Bible to replace it with the word “respect” or “reverence.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Hebrew language has a word for respect, and this isn’t it. It means literal fear.
In fact, the Greek equivalent of this word is Phobos, which is where we get our English word phobia. For example, if you have arachnophobia you have a fear of spiders. If you saw a spider crawling on your leg, and you are afraid of spiders, you’re not going to look at it and go, “I respect you.” That’s not how fear works; you’re going to use any means necessary to dispatch the threat.
So we are supposed to worship in fear? YES.
Focus out of fear and awe of WHO we are worshipping. We are singing to the creator.
We are praying to the God who parted seas, spoke the world into existence, and guided the Israelites with a pillar of fire. We are worshipping the King of Kings, the Great I AM, the Alpha and Omega, the One with no beginning or end, we are bowing down before the Most Holy God of the Universe.
If we realize what we are doing in worship, we can’t help but feel a little fear. Isaiah says, their worship was done through traditions learned “by rote.” This literally means, “Mechanical or habitual repetition.” We may be physically singing and look like we are worshipping God, but only the individual and God above know what is going on in the heart.
Isa. 12:5 “sing to the Lord.” This requires FOCUS, not mindlessly singing songs.
There are songs for each other, and songs directed toward God. “I want to be a worker for the Lord” …do we mean it? We can’t sing “Stand up, stand up for Jesus” on Sunday when all throughout the week all we’ve done is sit down. Focus on the words.
God would rather hear a tone deaf person who sings with their heart and mind, then a classically trained singer who only focuses on what it sounds like to them. Sunday morning worship comes once a week; it can be easy to let it turn into a mindless habit. Train your mind to focus on every act of worship. Don’t let worship become something we do out of tradition or habit. Focus on WHO we have come together to worship.
Your heart is only a little bigger than your fist and it weighs a mere 7-15 ounces. Despite it’s small size, on the inside you’ll find a massive stadium. There are battles that take place in this stadium on a daily basis. In the movies the good guy will always win, but in this arena? It will depend on who or what is the strongest.
The Bible gives us several vivid descriptions of what goes on inside the heart, so let’s explore that.
How can we know what’s going inside your heart today?
A cheerful disposition can be the sign of a healthy heart according to Proverbs 15:13. This tells us that our outward appearance can give away our interior.
Check out this section of scripture to see that in action.
“On Abel God looked with favor, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. God said to Cain why are you angry why has your countenance fallen? If you do right will you not be accepted? But if you do that which is not right, sin is crouching at the door”
God already knew what was in Cain’s heart but notice how He explains to Cain that his body language had given away his inward struggles.
Cain is livid and his countenance had fallen. In the following verses Cain ends up killing his own brother because that darkness had taken over.
While we can assume what somebody might be dealing with by observing their countenance, we can’t be absolutely sure. Some people are great at masking their inward selves but God isn’t fooled by our camouflage.
Here are two prime examples of that truth.
In 1 Kings 12, Jeroboam takes the throne and is now leader over the Northern tribes of Israel. In the Southern kingdom, they had the capital of Jerusalem where all the Israelites in that region would gather to sacrifice to the Lord.
The Bible indicates to us the very plans that Jeroboam said in the “privacy” of his heart. He built his own place of worship and foolishly placed those golden calves up for his new kingdom to worship.
In Luke 16.15, Jesus will prove once again that He’s the son of God by listening in on the secret conversations of that take place in the heart.
May we never forget that we serve a God who has a perfect and intimate knowledge of us. There might be things hidden within us that nobody on earth knows about, but it’s not hidden in heaven. To deny the fact that God can see through you is to deny the fact that we are all humans created in His image. Who is the champion of your heart today?
Saudi Arabia hosts an annual beauty contest for camels with a multimillion-dollar prize. This year’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival reward is $66 million (USD). As extravagant as this prize sounds to Westerners, camels are an established multimillion-dollar industry in Saudi Arabia and a fixture of Bedouin culture. To determine a winner, judges evaluate the camelid’s posture, humps, necks, and head shapes. And, since so much is at stake in these contests, officials ban cosmetic alterations that beautify camels.
Sky News’ Amar Mehta reports that officials have, this year, disqualified over 40 entries in the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival for Botox use. This number is an increase from the 12 Botox-injected camels disqualified in 2018. Since officials look for such cheaters and impose strict penalties on the same, why would anyone take the risk? If I were to guess, I would say that cheaters would cite 66 million reasons. If no one finds the deception, he can increase his bank account and reputation.
As you recollect, Jesus selected a man as an apostle who was as sneaky as a Botox-injecting camel breeder. John wrote of this apostle in his Gospel. This apostle’s name was Judas. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with costly oil, Judas rebuked Mary for “wasting” something considered valuable. Then, Judas declared that they should have sold Mary’s oil and used the proceeds to enrich the poor. But John reveals Judas’ heart. “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it” (John 12.6 NASB1995).
In like manner, why do any think they can fool the God Who sees our hearts? The Hebrews’ writer reminds us, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (4.13 NASB1995). It may be that we can fool the eyes of our fellow man who likewise awaits judgment, but our Judge will reveal all our deeds, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12.14).
Yes, God sees the Botox, fillers, and other tricks we use to look good on the outside. So then, “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10.22-23 NASB1995).
I wonder if Kathy felt like she was living with Briscoe Darling and the boys (imagine them if they were talkative) through the years they were growing up. She is refined and genteel, words that are not usually connected to our three sons and me. One thing she impressed upon us was the importance of timely, thoughtful thank you notes. Gratitude, though it can be expressed with very little time and expense, is telling. It acknowledges the kindness and generosity of the giver.
One of the elements of worship, generally, and prayer, specifically, is thanksgiving. Our songs call for it: “Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart,” they express it: “Thank You, Lord,” “For All That You’ve Done,” “How Great Thou Art,” “10,000 Reasons,” and “He Has Made Me Glad.” Though that songwriter, Leona Von Brethorst, apparently wrote the song from Psalm 100, she includes a line from Psalm 118:24: “This is the day that the Lord has made.”
Five times in Psalm 118, the psalmist says “give thanks” (1,19,21,28,29). He urges others to do so, but also expresses his resolve to do the same. Why?
GIVE THANKS FOR HIS GOODNESS (1-4)
“Good” is a general word that takes in pleasantness, desirability, and beauty. The good quality specified here is His everlasting mercy (lovingkindness). The writer moves from the broad to the specific–Israel, house of Aaron, those who fear the Lord. Everyone is the object of God’s lovingkindness. The righteous freely express their thanks for it.
GIVE THANKS FOR HIS DELIVERANCE (5-13)
There is a sudden, dramatic shift in tone in verse five. From an upbeat, positive tone, he turns to thoughts of trouble and difficulty. Distress, hatred, being surrounded, and violence threatened him, but God was there for him as protection and help. This kept him from fearfulness. It gave him refuge.
It is an amazing thing to think of all the ways and times God has been with me, but those are just the instances I’m aware of. How many trials has God spared me from, disasters has He caused me to avoid, and troubles has He averted for me that I won’t know about on this earth? Just what I do know humbles me, and it should fill my heart with gratitude.
GIVE THANKS FOR HIS GREATNESS (14-17)
The writer turns to the Giver. He is strong, a Savior, valiant, and exalted. Summarizing God’s qualities, the writer says, “I will not die, but live, And tell of the works of the Lord” (17). Awareness of who God is for me, physically, materially, and spiritually, will drive me to grateful thanks.
GIVE THANKS FOR HIS DISCIPLINE (18)
Though it is almost a parenthetical phrase in the middle of this song of thanksgiving, it is important and an additional reason for gratitude. He writes, “The Lord has disciplined me severely, But He has not given me over to death.” Who is brave enough to say that with the psalmist? He implies gratitude for God’s severe discipline. Hebrews 12:7-10 tells us that God disciplines those He loves and calls His children. It is for our good and allows us to share His holiness. Can I thank Him for the trials and challenges that refine me and grow my dependence on Him? Or do I just plaintively ask, “Why?”
GIVE THANKS FOR HIS PROVISION (19-29)
He uses the imagery of a city here–gates, stones, and chief corner stone. Then, he ends with a temple analogy, with the house of the Lord, festival sacrifice, and the horns of the altar. Saved inside God’s walls of protection, we are free to offer worship which He accepts. We marvel, we rejoice, we are glad, we prosper, and we extol. He has given us light. The primary thrust is not material, but spiritual. However prosperous or impoverished you are, financially, however strong or weak you are, emotionally, we have the greatest provision of all in Christ. Eternal salvation, the hope of heaven, fellowship with God and the saved, the church, strength to endure, the list is endless.
Today, as you go through the day, why not stop and spend time in prayer to God thanking Him categorically: physical blessings, relationship blessings, emotional blessings, national blessings, and spiritual blessings. No doubt, there are things in your life right now that are dissatisfying and disappointing. You may be struggling mightily. Perhaps those are ways God is disciplining you in His love. Whatever is happening in your life, choose to give thanks and know God is trustworthy! It’s more than polite. It’s righteous!