Friday, August 28, 2020

This Is Love

 

It's not our love for God but it's God's love for us that sent Jesus to die the death we deserve to give us what we don't deserve (forgiveness, salvation, eternal life with Him in Heaven). Sin separated us from God. God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. Because God is holy, righteous, and just, sin has to be dealt with. Out of love, God gave His one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice (propitiation/the mercy seat) for our sin (to pay the penalty for our sin once and for all/to satisfy God's justice and wrath towards our sin), in order to restore our relationship with Him.

God is the Source of true love (agape). Agape love is unconditional, sacrificial, and selfless. It seeks the highest good for another no matter what the cost may be, as shown by Christ's sacrificial death on our behalf. God offered His Son to rescue us regardless of our decision to accept or reject Jesus, His gracious Gift. "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Christ died for our sins even when we're still enemies of God. God loves us first before we turn to Him...before we seek Him...before we love Him. He did not wait for us to love Him first before showing His love to us. God's love for us does not depend on who we are or what we do. God loves the guilty, the rebellious, the wicked, the unworthy, the ungrateful, and the unloving. God's amazing love for us never changes. God loved us to death (literally) before we did anything deserving of love. Christ's death on the cross was the ultimate expression of God's love for mankind. The most glorious display of His lovingkindness! We must follow God's example. Take the initiative in loving others, loving everyone, including the unlovable. Love like Jesus!

"When you love the unloving, you get a glimpse of what God does for you." (Max Lucado)

"
We cannot choose whom we will love if we claim to be Christians." (Unknown)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me before I even knew You! Thank You for Christ's sacrifice for my sins! My heart is overwhelmed with Your unfailing & unconditional love for me. Please love through me...help me love others with Your agape love. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.




Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Assurance

"This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything." (1 John 3:19-20)

Obedience to God's Word and agape love (the fruit of the Spirit) towards people not only prove (to others) that we belong to the truth but also give our own hearts confident assurance of being in the truth. Our hearts are at rest (at peace) in God's presence because we know we are in His will; we are doing what He wants us to do.

Well, nobody (not even pastors or theologians) can obey God's Word and practice agape love perfectly all the time. Yes, we all fail at times. Our failures may make us question whether we belong to the truth. Our hearts may condemn us and make us doubt our salvation. This could be the work of the enemy (the accuser of our brothers and sisters, mentioned in Revelation 12:10) or the work of our oversensitive conscience. When this happens, we must trust what God's Word says about our standing in Christ, not how we feel. We know that God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything. God is greater than our lack of assurance. He says in His Word: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:23-24) If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and relied on His finished work of redemption on the cross to pay for the penalty of your sins, you have been justified (declared not guilty) and all your sins have been forgiven as if you had never sinned. In addition, Christ's righteousness has been imputed to us. God knows all the good, the bad, and the ugly in us and He still loves us, cares for us, and forgives us. We are still His children. "The believer's ultimate foundation of assurance is the character of God." (Criswell) Even when we fail Him, He will never fail us. We can always depend on Him. God's love will never let us go. We are His forever.

John's intention for these verses is to encourage us with blessed assurance of salvation. "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) Notice that John used the word "know" many times in this letter. He really wanted us to know all these truths so that all doubts can be removed. Be confident in your salvation; know that you're saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, not by your performance.  

Don't let doubt discourage you, make you spiritually lethargic, and render you useless for the kingdom of God. Never give up pressing into God and pressing on trusting God and living for God. Authentic faith perseveres. Persistence and perseverance will eventually lead to confidence and assurance. 

1. Keep going to God in prayer. "
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) "
Prayer crowns God with the honor and glory due to His name, and God crowns prayer with assurance and comfort. The most praying souls are the most assured souls." (Thomas Brooks)  Keep praying and asking Holy Spirit to increase your faith, to give you confident assurance, and to empower you to walk in obedience and to love like Jesus.

2. Keep going to God's Word. "T
herefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) The assurance of salvation is simply a matter of taking God at His Word.

No condemnation now I dread, 
I am my Lord’s and He is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine.

(Wesley)

3. Keep loving God and loving people. Focus on these two greatest commandments and rely on God's strength and power to do this. 

4. Keep throwing yourselves on God's mercy and grace. Again and again. Our sins are many but His mercy is more and His grace is inexhaustible!

5. Keep clinging to Christ no matter what and remembering what Christ accomplished on the cross ("It is finished!"). "For every look at self--take ten looks at Christ!" (Robert Murray McCheyne) The antidote to self-condemnation is to gaze and camp on Christ's redemption and justification. "When I cannot enjoy the faith of assurance, I live by the faith of adherence." (Matthew Henry)

"Assurance grows by repeated conflict, by our repeated experimental proof of the Lord's power and goodness to save; when we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again, have given up all hope, and been suddenly snatched from danger, and placed in safety; and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the word and power of God, beyond and against appearances: and this trust, when habitual and strong, bears the name of assurance; for even assurance has degrees." (John Newton, a former slave trader, who wrote Amazing Grace)



Tuesday, August 25, 2020

How We Know What Love Is

 


"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" (1 John 3:16-17)

Every Christian knows John 3:16 by heart but how many of us have 1 John 3:16 at heart? Agape love is self-sacrificing love and it's required of us as children of God. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. This is to be our standard and example of what love is. We are to love like Christ...to be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Agape love is the supernatural love that God puts in our heart through His indwelling Spirit. It's a fruit of the Spirit. It's dying to self and valuing others above self. 

Genuine love must be expressed in action. 
"Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:15-17) Our faith and our words are worth nothing (meaningless) if we do nothing to help those in need. Agape love is shown in giving, helping, serving, forgiving, praying, protecting, listening, caring, bearing one another's burdens, sharing the gospel, etc. To lay down our lives for others (verse 16) and to share material possessions with those in need (verse 17) are examples of putting agape in action. We're blessed to be a blessing to others/to share with others (especially those in need), not to hoard for ourselves. 

Are we always willing to meet others' needs even when it costs us (time, money, energy, effort, inconvenience, etc.)? Don't just feel moved but then do nothing. "Sympathy is no substitute for action."(David Livingstone) "No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he had only had good intentions." (Margaret Thatcher) Faith without action is dead. Love without action is hypocrisy. 

Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for showing me what agape love is! Thank You for dying on the cross on my behalf for my sins! Please empower me to love like You. Please open my eyes to see the needs around me and show me how to best meet those needs. Please guide me where and how I should use my resources that You've blessed me with for Your glory and Your kingdom. 


Monday, August 24, 2020

Confident and Unashamed

 


"And now, dear children, continue (abide) in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him." (1 John 2:28-29)

The key for God's children to be confident and unashamed when Christ returns is to abide in Christ (live in fellowship with Him). “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) We are to be living in the light of His imminent return. If He came back right at this moment, would we be confident (keeping a clear conscience) and unashamed (having nothing to hide) or would we feel unsure/afraid and ashamed/embarrassed? Let us examine how we live our lives. No one knows when Jesus will return. We must be ready at all times. Let us have a Maranatha mindset! 

Knowing God Who is righteous and practicing righteousness should go hand in hand. True/Right doctrine leads to true/right living (according to God's Word). Our words, our action, our character, our lives reveal who we are and Whom we belong to. God's children who have been born of God should take after God. Can people see the family resemblance? Righteous living (holiness/godliness/Christlikeness) is the proof of the new birth/being born again (which is the working of the Holy Spirit). I remember a convicting quote by Gandhi: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." To me, it's one of the saddest statements ever. We are Christ's ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Do we represent Him accurately? How we live our lives either draws people closer to Christ or away from Christ, whether we're aware of it or not. Do we love and serve like Christ? Do we conduct ourselves like the world or like Christ? In short, "to abide in Christ" is the call for us to live in constant fellowship with Christ and live in obedience to His Word, relying upon the indwelling Spirit for empowerment.

Prayer: Abba Father, thank You for rescuing me from the dominion of darkness and bringing me into Your kingdom and adopting me into Your family! Please forgive me for the ways in which I misrepresent You. Please enable to be constantly abiding in Christ, being ready for His return. Please mold me to be like Christ. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit and strengthen me with power through Your Spirit in my inner being so that I may live a life worthy of You, please You in every way, and bear fruit in every good work. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.



Friday, August 21, 2020

Eternal Life

 

"And this is what He promised us--eternal life." (1 John 2:25)

Eternal life is God's gift promised to all who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If we remain in Christ, we can be confident that we will spend eternity with Him in Heaven. When our physical life ends on earth, our spiritual life continues throughout eternity without end. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them." (John 3:36) Very truly I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24) Notice that the verbs in both verses are in present tense. Our eternal life starts the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ. It is our current standing in Christ. We will never die spiritually, but instead, live forever with Him. "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:25-26) "For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29) O blessed assurance! Praise God for giving us the certainty of our salvation and eternal life! We are eternally safe and secure. We are His now and forever. He will keep and preserve us for eternity. We can never be taken from His grip. God is our fierce Defender and Protector. He is our all-loving and all-powerful Abba Father. God is in control; He is sovereign over all. Please share the gospel with the lost so that they may also place their faith in Jesus Christ and receive the gift of eternal life.

"Christians can be confident about their growth in sanctification and eternal security because they are confident in the God Who promises it." (John Owen)

Prayer: Abba Father, thank You for my eternal life with You and my eternal security in Christ! My life is safe and secure in Your hand. Your loving protection and Your sovereignty give me peace, joy, comfort, confidence, and courage, even in the midst of difficult, challenging times. I pray that You will use me to share the gospel boldly and help the unsaved know how they can receive the gift of eternal life in Christ. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

Do Not Love the World

"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world." (1 John 2:15-16)

Love for the world (worldliness, the world system that is corrupted/polluted and is in opposition to God) and love for our Heavenly Father are incompatible. We cannot have both. If we love God, we must not love the world and all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh (fleshly desires such as gluttony, sexual sins, materialism), the lust of the eyes (appearance, status), and the pride of life (superiority, comparison, entitlement). All these things may seem attractive but they are worthless and dangerous because they pull us away from God. 

"You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that He jealously longs for the spirit He has caused to dwell in us? But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.'" (James 4:4-6)

"You adulterous people" is an allusion to covenant unfaithfulness, referring to Israel as unfaithful bride of Jehovah (Hosea 3:1). Friendship with the world = enmity (hatred/hostility) against God. To maintain friendship with the world is to be on good terms with (to support, to favor, to approve) persons and things and ideas that are at least indifferent toward God if not openly hostile to Him. When we seek after our own desires/pleasures, we're doing what the world does (acting just like the world), not doing what God wants/tells us to do. Essentially, we would be committing spiritual adultery. Our God is a jealous God; He wants our undivided loyalty and will not tolerate divided allegiance. We cannot serve two masters. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13) God or materialism? God or egotism? God or sensuality? Wealth, fame, power, pleasure, possessions, positions, and other temptations in this world can never satisfy our soul. Only Christ, our Lord and Savior, can! 

Are you in or out? You cannot have one foot following the world and the other foot following Jesus. It won't work!  Love and obey God alone! Live for God with no compromise! 

Farewell, vain world; my soul bids you adieu.
My Savior taught me to abandon you.
Your charms may gratify a sensual mind,
but cannot please a soul for God designed.
(David Brainerd)

"Growth in faith will be manifested by increasing deadness to the world. The more faith discovers of the beauty and glory of the Savior, and the splendors of that heavenly country to which the Christian is bound--the more worthless will this world appear!" (William Nicholson) 

We are in the world but we are not of the world. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2) We must embrace a different mindset (have the mind of Christ) and an eternal perspective. This world is not our home. Don't waste your life chasing after temporary things! Don't waste your life fretting about temporary things, either! Live for God and give Him your undivided loyalty! Don't let the world and its pursuits or its troubles come between your soul and Him. Focus on reaching out to the lost and making an eternal impact while you're here on earth. Live intentionally in such a way that most glorifies God. Think God's thoughts. Love what God loves and hate what God hates. Look at everything (including current crisis) through God's eyes/perspectives.

Prayer: Abba Father, thank You for Your relentless & protective love for me! Thank You for Your inexhaustible grace and patience! Please forgive me for my selfish desires and motives. Please keep me from being enticed by worldly treasures. You know how difficult it is for us to live in this wicked world where our affection and attention are being pulled constantly by worldly things. I cannot win this battle by myself. I need You and Your strength to remain steadfast in faith and in pursuit of holiness. I desire to live wholeheartedly for You. Please fill every area of my heart and my mind with Your Holy Spirit so that there will be no room for the world, the flesh, or the devil. Please help me to continually focus my heart and mind on eternal things, not on earthly things. May I always live faithfully in the light of eternity for Your glory and Your kingdom. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

 "When they see a follower of Jesus who is sold out for Christ, living free of legalism and bondage to the world, they are drawn to Jesus. When they see a follower of Jesus living for 'self' and the world, they have no problem rejecting Jesus because it allows them to play the hypocrite cardThe world needs us to be an example of living the Bible so that they too are drawn to Christ. They need answers, and for us to say we are "Christians" and live our life in pursuit of personal gain would only be a contradiction to who we say we follow. " (David McGee)




Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Test of Knowing Christ

 

"We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did." (1 John 2:3-6)

The test of true Christianity (proof that we really know Christ, abide in Christ, and love Christ) is obedience (to God's Word/commandments). Do you know Christ? The word "to know" in verse 3 is ginosko in Greek, 
which refers to an experiential and intimately personal knowledge (as opposed to mere head knowledge). Is your behavior congruent with your beliefs? Obedience to Christ is an essential evidence that you know Christ. On the contrary, disobedience to Christ is a proof that you do not know Him. A professing Christian who disobeys God is a liar/a hypocrite. "The best evidence of our having the truth is our walking in the truth." (Matthew Henry) If we truly know Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, abide in Him, and love Him, we will want to please Him, honor Him, obey Him and His Word. We are to walk in the same way/manner in which Christ walked....walking in obedience and desiring to do our Father's will.

"If a profession of faith in Christ does not result in a changed life that hungers and thirsts for God’s Word and desires to obey that Word, the profession is only that - a mere profession. Satan, of course, loves such professions, because they give church members the damning notion that they are saved when they are not! They still belong to him, not God." (John MacArthur)

Prayer
: Abba Father, thank You for being patient with me and for forgiving me! I desire to know You more and to make You known. Please give me wisdom, courage, and strength to walk daily in faith and obedience. Please mold me to be like Christ and enable me to please & honor You in all I say and do. May how I live my life bring joy to Your Heart! In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.




Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Confess and Be Cleansed

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

Our sin separates us from God. Even for those in Christ, sin hinders our fellowship with Him. The word "confess" comes from the Greek word, "homologeo," meaning to say the same thing. When we confess, we say the same thing that God says (in His Word)...that what we did is sin. If we confess our sins (sins of commission and sins of omission), He will forgive us, cleanse us, and restore us to Him. 
This is a beautiful promise of God. 









Monday, August 17, 2020

The Joy of Fellowship

John wrote his first epistle to refute the heresy of Gnosticism, which teaches that salvation is gained through the acquisition of mystical knowledge and that Jesus Christ’s physical body was not real. John asserted that he himself and the apostles who were eyewitnesses of Jesus had heard, had seen, and had touched Jesus Christ, the Word of Life, even after Christ's resurrection. John also wrote this epistle so that others may share his experience of fellowship and joy in Christ and with one another. Our joy is made full/complete when we have fellowship with God through Christ and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. To know Christ and to experience sweet fellowship with one another sharing the wonderful things of Christ bring great joy to our hearts. 


I love the acronym J.O.Y. When we put/honor Jesus first and above all else in our lives (Matthew 22:37-38), and next put/honor others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4), we will experience joy.
J esus
O thers
Y ou







Thursday, May 21, 2020

Fear Not: God Is Your Helper

The psalmist recounted his personal experience of God's goodness, faithfulness, and enduring love during the time when he was distressed. He was hard pressed and desperately needed help. He knew that God was his only Hope. He turned to the Lord to be the Source of his deliverance in those difficult times. By acknowledging (and reminding himself of) what God did for him in the past, he's ready to face anything with confidence and without fear. God is there with him to be his Helper. When you face troubles or difficulties, who or what do you turn to for help? Fear not; God is also with you and He is also your Helper. Cry out to the Lord. He listens, He cares, He answers, He liberates, and He helps. He is attentive to our needs. God can and will set us free from whatever constrains us or holds us down (ex: worries, fears, discouragement, weariness, etc.) God's presence with us makes all the difference in the world. Our Helper is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Thus there's nothing and no one we need to be afraid of whatsoever. All we need to do is to rely upon Him, Who is our Refuge from the storm and the enemies. The Lord God Almighty is our Defender; we shall triumph.

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.
    In God, whose Word I praise--
in God I trust and am not afraid.    
What can mere mortals do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4)

Prayers which come out of distress generally come out of the heart, and therefore they go to the heart of God. It is sweet to recollect our prayers, and often profitable to tell others of them after they are heard. Prayer may be bitter in the offering, but it will be sweet in the answering. The man of God had called upon the Lord when he was not in distress, and therefore he found it natural and easy to call upon him when he was in distress. He worshipped, he praised, he prayed: for all this is included in calling upon God, even when he was in a straitened condition.” (Charles Spurgeon) 

Prayer
: Lord Jesus, thank You for being my Helper and Defender! My life is in Your hand. There's nowhere else I'd rather be. Thank You for listening to and answering my prayers! Your unfailing love, grace, power, and faithfulness have sustained me throughout my life and I know that they will continue for the rest of my life. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of  my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Fear Not: Jesus Has All the Power and Authority


"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me.'" (Matthew 28:18)

This verse is an introduction to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus wants to give His disciples encouragement and assurance for the task He assigns for them. Jesus has not only all power but also all authority in Heaven and on earth. God the Father gave Jesus complete sovereignty over everything and everyone. He has the right and freedom to do whatever He pleases in all creation. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. His authority is the basis of the evangelization to the world. We Christians can make a difference in the world when we abide in Christ and go out to reach the world with His gospel under His authority. "I AM the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5) He promises to be with us always to the very end of the age. He has enough/unlimited power and authority to enable us to carry out the Great Commission, in spite of our weaknesses and/or any obstacles and persecution. "I can do all things through Him (Christ) Who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) 

"What do you need that Christ doesn't have?" (David Robertson) Great question, isn't it?! Ponder it and your fear will dissipate.



Friday, May 8, 2020

Fear the Lord and Shun Evil

Do not be prideful and arrogant. Do not think you know better than God how things should be. We are to trust God (including trusting His will, way, and timing) with all our heart, instead of trusting and relying on our own wisdom. God has infinite wisdom; we don't. Don't be impressed with your own wisdom. It's far better to humbly fear (revere) the Lord, completely trust Him, and reject evil. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. It's about submissive reverence with awe. A life of surrendering to God, trusting in God, and obeying God begets health and nourishment benefits. As with all Proverbs, the purpose is to impart wisdom as guidelines, not prophecy with guarantees. When we trust and obey God (follow God's wisdom), peace, joy, strength, success, well-being (physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual), blessings, good results generally ensue. It makes total sense that when we live wisely according to God's wisdom and avoid evil & foolishness, our physical, mental, and emotional health will be better off. Less mistakes. Less troubles. Less heartaches. Less regrets. Less worries. Less stress.

"Be not puffed up with vain conceit of thine own wisdom, as if that were sufficient for the conduct of all thine affairs without direction or assistance from God, or without the advice of others." (Poole)

Prayer: O Lord, Your wisdom is perfect and infinite! Thank You for being my Guide and Shepherd who leads me and watches over me! Please forgive me for the times I neglected to seek Your wisdom and guidance. I'm so grateful that Your answers are always wiser than my prayers. Please help me to always seek You first, submit to You, trust You, and obey You. Please grant me wisdom from above to pray for peace and cling to love. Please teach me to humbly receive the sun and rain of Your sovereignty.

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