The Transfer of Power.

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from striking down the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage. David said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” And David said to him, “How did it go? Tell me.” And he answered, “The people fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.” Then David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” And the young man who told him said, “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear, and behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. And I answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’ And he said to me, ‘Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.’ So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.”

Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. And David said to the young man who told him, “Where do you come from?” And he answered, “I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite.” David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?” Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go, execute him.” And he struck him down so that he died. And David said to him, “Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord's anointed.’” – 2 Samuel 1:1-16 ESV

The Bible is full of irony, and this story is a case in point. Saul, having taken his own life by falling on his own sword, was left on the field of battle, his body unprotected and easy pickings for the Philistines soldiers to find. But according to this story, an Amalekite got to Saul before the Philistines did. He took Saul’s crown and armlet and made his way to Ziklag, having concocted a false version of the events surrounding Saul’s death, in hopes that David would reward him for having killed Saul. But the irony in all of this is that this man, who falsely took credit for Saul’s death and stole his crown and armlet, was an Amalekite. All the way back in 1 Samuel 13, Saul was commanded by God to destroy the Amalekites, completely wiping out every man, woman and child. But Saul was disobedient to God. He failed to do what God had commanded him to do. And as a result the Amalekites were alive and well. In fact, the second point of irony is that this man made his way to David, proudly proclaiming his Amalekite ethnicity, totally unaware that David had just defeated and plundered his countrymen for having raided his city and capturing its inhabitants. In other words, this young man picked a bad time to be an Amalekite and to brag about killing the king of Israel with his own hands.

The fact that the account of chapter one of 2 Samuel differs slightly from that of chapter 31 of 1 Samuel has caused some consternation over the years. But it is not a case of a discrepancy in the Bible. It is simply the facts related to the events. Chapter 31 of 1 Samuel records what actually happened as it relates to Saul’s death and the aftermath. Nowhere does it mention his crown or armlet. Only his head, decapitated body and armor were taken by the Philistines. Had they found something as significant as his crown, it would probably been mentioned. But according to the story in chapter one of 2 Samuel, the crown had been taken by an Amalekite who was plundering the bodies of the fallen. And he was not mentioned in the closing chapter of 1 Samuel, because it was a record of Saul’s death, not David’s reaction to it. The author reserved the events surrounding the Amalekite and his plundering of Saul’s crown and amulet until later.

And the Amalekite mercenary’s arrival in David’s camp and his news of Saul’s death were not received with the joy and gratitude he had imagined.

David and his men tore their clothes in sorrow when they heard the news. They mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the Lord’s army and the nation of Israel, because they had died by the sword that day. – 2 Samuel 1:11-12 NLT

This was not what the young man had expected. Instead of David reacting with joy and offering the Amalekite a reward for his claim of having killed David’s archenemy, he went into mourning, weeping over the death of the Lord’s anointed. There was no celebration, no gloating, no dance of victory over Saul’s well-deserved death. And the idea that an Amalekite had been the one to take the king’s life was too much for David to handle. Based on the young man’s bold claim, David had him executed. Not exactly the reward he had been seeking.

What is interesting to note in this story is the sovereign hand of God at work. These two chapters provide a turning point in the story of David’s life. Between them, we see a transition of power taking place between Saul and David. It is fascinating to consider that this unsuspecting Amalekite was used by God to bring the very crown of Saul and hand it to the man whom God had appointed and anointed to be the next king of Israel. It was a tangible symbol of what was taking place within the story – all part of God’s strategic plan for David’s rise to the throne of Israel.

David’s path to the throne had been a long and arduous one. From the day he had been anointed by Samuel the prophet, until the moment Saul fell on his sword, taking his own life, David had experienced a lengthy, pain-filled journey filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, and moments of doubt and despair. David’s faith had been tested. He had been oftentimes confused by the events surrounding his life. He didn’t always understand what was going on or enjoy the manner in which God had chosen to direct his life. But he kept trusting. He kept waiting. And while he had been given two different opportunities to take Saul’s life, he had refused. On both cases he had considered Saul the Lord’s anointed and was unwilling to raise his hand against him. Up until the very end, David had showed honor and respect for the Lord’s anointed, even mourning the death of the very man who had dedicated years of his life to the David’s destruction.  

Saul was defeated by the Philistines. He took his own life. An Amalekite plundered the crown from his dead body and claimed responsibility for his death. He expected a reward from David. But David mourned and rewarded the Amalekite with death. Saul’s crown, the symbol of his power, had been handed over to David by an unlikely source and in an unexpected manner. Saul’s short-lived dynasty had come to an abrupt and ignominious end. And with his death, the transfer of power had begun. David was poised to become the next king of Israel. God’s hand-picked successor was poised to ascend the throne of Israel and assume the responsibility of leading the people of Israel on behalf of God. The man who had repeatedly shown honor and respect for the Lord’s anointed was about to become the Lord’s anointed. And every single event and circumstance up until this point had all been part of God’s sovereign plan for David’s life. The timing was perfect. The plan was unfolding just as God had ordained it.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Privilege of Knowing God.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. – 1 John 5:20 ESV 1 John 5:13-21

John closes his letter with a strong note of affirmation: “We know that the Son of God has come.” John has given his own personal testimony to that fact, along with the testimonies of the three very reliable witnesses, not to mention God Himself. The evidence is more than sufficient to prove that Jesus not only came, but that He was and is the Son of God. He existed before the creation of the world with God. Not only that, He played a major part in the creation of the world. John begins his gospel with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3 ESV). The deity of Jesus is essential to the plan of salvation. Without it, mankind's sin problem remains unchanged. We are left with the ever-present reality of sin in our lives and the complete incapacity to refrain from sin or remove the guilt and sentence of death associated with it. There were those in John's day who believed that Jesus simply came to show us a better way to live. He came to give us a more enlightened moral code by which to conduct our lives. But Jesus' entire life led to the cross, where He sacrificed Himself for the sins of mankind. He atoned for man's sin by offering Himself as a worthy, sinless sacrifice. And as a result, when anyone places their faith in Him as their Savior and sin substitute, they receive not only cleansing from sin, but His righteousness. In other words, Jesus didn't just pay our debt off and bring our balance to zero. That would still have left us spiritually penniless and helpless. No, what Jesus did was give us His righteousness. He replaced our indebtedness to God with the wealth of His righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). Not only that, He provided a way for us to know God and experience fellowship with Him for the very first time in our lives.

We can know the one, true God. No longer are we left to try and conjure up our own version of God or find something else that might act as a stand-in for Him. Because of Jesus' death on the cross, we can actually, legitimately know God. We can come into His presence. And when we do, we come as His children, not groveling, fearful debtors. He looks on us as His own children. He sees us as righteous, because our sins have all been paid for in full – past, present and future. We no longer have to try and earn His favor. We don't have to attempt to measure up and keep our sin-quotient below 50 percent. Yes, we are to live holy lives, because that is what He has called us to. But we don't do it out of a sense of obligation or in order to earn His love and favor. We do it gladly, out of love for Him. And we do it in the strength He has provided us through His indwelling Holy Spirit. Our testimony can be that of Paul's, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). Through the Holy Spirit, Christ lives in us. The Spirit of God has taken up a permanent residence within each and every believer.

But the main point John leaves us with as he closes out his letter is that “we may know him who is true.” By coming to know Jesus as Savior, we come to know God the Father. There is no other way. Any other attempt to come to know God will fall short. It will end in idolatry, a false form of God. Rather than the true God, man will always end up worshiping false gods – apart from Christ. John wants us to know that Jesus makes it possible for us to know the one true God and experience eternal life. But one of the false perceptions among many believers is that eternal life is somehow a commodity. It is some kind of future reward reserved for those who make the right choice and place their faith in Jesus. But Jesus said, “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Knowing God and Jesus is eternal life. It is the reward. A relationship with God and His Son is the prize. But do we value it? Do we fully appreciate the remarkable reality that we can have an intimate, experiential knowledge of God – right here, right now? Jesus has made it possible for us to know and understand the infinite, indefinable, all-powerful God of the universe. Through the living word, Jesus; and the written Word, the Scriptures; and the indwelling Spirit; we can know and understand God. We can come to comprehend His character and nature. We can grow in our knowledge of Him. We can increasingly see His incredible love for us and respond in kind. Rather than seeing Him as distant, detached and difficult to understand, we can know and love Him. And we don't have to wait for heaven in order to start. What an incredible privilege.

American Idols.

Little children keep yourselves from idols. – 1 John 5:21 1 John 5:13-21

What an interesting way to end a letter. After spending all of his time defending the deity of Jesus, ensuring his readers of Jesus' Sonship and role as Savior, encouraging them to love one another and warning them of false teaching, John closes with a warning about idols. It seems a bit abrupt and unnecessary. After all, he is writing to believers. These were people who loved Jesus and worshiped God. Why would he need to warn them about worshiping idols? Because that is the natural tendency of all men – both saved and unsaved. We are wired for worship. But John has made it clear that our worship is to be directed toward God and His Son Jesus Christ. We are to worship no one or nothing else. An idol is nothing more than a false representation for God. It is something we turn to other than God for hope, help, assurance, acceptance, joy, and ultimately, salvation. It can be whatever we give our time and attention to, including money, our career, our marriage, children, material things, recognition, power, prestige, or a host of other good and not-so-good things that we place our trust in other than God.

So John begins his letter with a personal testimony regarding the deity of Jesus. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3 ESV). Then he ends it with a warning to avoid idols. He knew that there was a constant capacity within his readers to turn their worship of God and His Son into the worship of something or someone else. They could even falsely worship God. That is what the former members of their fellowship had done. They rejected Jesus as their Messiah. They claimed to have fellowship with God, but refused to accept the idea that Jesus was the key to that relationship. Rather than worship Him as the Son of God and Savior of the world, they had manufactured their own version of Jesus, making Him into a mere man whose life was worthy of emulation. They redefined Jesus. But John exposed the fallacy of their thinking. “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23 ESV). You can't have a relationship with God without the Son. To attempt to do is to turn God into an idol. He becomes a false God. You make Him a liar, John says, because it was He who testified to the very fact that Jesus was His Son and the long-awaited Messiah or Savior.

Idol worship is a constant temptation for believers. We can make a god out of doctrine. We can worship our knowledge of the Bible. We can place our trust in a pastor or teacher, which is not necessarily wrong, unless we place them on a pedestal, making them our sole source of strength, comfort, direction, and encouragement. As believers, we are never free from the temptation to make money and materialism our gods. We still have a powerful propensity to worship self – seeking comfort in our own significance. We can seek satisfaction in a host of worldly things, from sexual pleasure to material gain. Which is why John warned, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15 ESV). He said, “the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:16 NLT). When they take on more importance than God, they have become our idols. When we think about these things more than we do God and His Son, we have allowed them to become false gods.

Man is born with a God-shaped vacuum in his life. He will inevitably fill it with something or someone. No one worships nothing. But John would have us remember that we are God's children. We belong to Him. As believers, we are not only His creation, we are His spiritual children. We are born of God, both physically and spiritually. And He has given us His Son in order that we might have a right relationship with Him. So that we might worship Him. The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way: “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Man was created to glorify God. But sin separated man from God. It replaced the worship of God with the worship of self. Sin is rebellion to and rejection of God's rightful place at the center of our affections. It is a desire for something other than God. It is a desire to make ourselves god. But Jesus was sent by God to remedy not only our sin problem, but our worship disorder. He came to provide us atonement for and forgiveness from the penalty of sin. But He also came to restore us to a right worship of God. Some of us have gladly accepted God's gift of salvation, but have never fully recognized that we were saved to worship. God restored us so that we might recover our love for and worship of Him. We are not to worship salvation. We are to worship the one who provided it. We are not to worship heaven, but the one provided us access into His presence and with whom we will spend eternity in a loving Father-child relationship.

Knowing God.

And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. – 1 John 5:20 NLT

1 John 5:13-21

We can know God. That should be an amazing, mind-blowing thought, but to most of us, it carries little or no weight. It has long lost its significance, if it ever had any. We have grown so used to using God's name and claiming to have a relationship with Him that we no longer understand the unbelievable nature of that reality. Because of Jesus and His death on the cross, we can know God. The term that John uses for a knowledge of God is ginōskō and it is the same Greek word used when talking about the sexual intimacy between a woman and a man. It is an intimate word. It is not merely describing a cerebral or cognitive kind of knowledge – head knowledge. It is a knowledge grounded on personal experience. In other words, it is heart-knowledge. We have the unique privilege of coming to know the God of the universe – intimately, closely, lovingly, and experientially. I can actually know God, not just have knowledge about God. What's the difference? Why does it matter? It matters because Jesus gave His life so that we might be reconciled, made right with God. He died so that we might have life, but that life is intended to be focused on and lived out for the glory of God, not ourselves. We were once alienated and separated from God. Paul reminds us, we “were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions” (Colossians 1:21 NLT). He tells us that “while we were still his enemies,” God sent His Son to die for us. Why? Just so we could go to heaven some day? No. So that we might have a restored relationship with Him. We can have what Adam and Eve had before the fall changed everything. We can have communion with our creator God. We can have fellowship with Him. We can know Him closely – like a child and a father.

In his letter to the Colossian believers, Paul told them that he never ceased to pray for them, asking that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10 ESV). It is interesting that Paul puts equal emphasis on knowing God's will and knowing God. It is only as we grow to know Him better that we will come to know what He loves, how He thinks, what He desires, and what His will for us might be. I always find it fascinating that, when Jesus prayed in the garden on the night He was to be betrayed, He described eternal life in these terms: “that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Jesus died so that we might come to know His Father in the same way that He does. It is about relationship, not religion. Christianity is not about performance or earning favor with God. It is about understanding the love of the Father and growing in our appreciation for that unmerited, undeserved love. It is about coming to know just how loving, gracious, kind, generous, forgiving, merciful, and patient our heavenly Father really is. Our quest in life is not to please God, but to grow to know Him. God is not asking us to perform for Him or prove our love for Him. He is asking us to rest in the love He has for us – a love so powerfully illustrated in the sacrifice of His own Son on our behalf. Far too many of us don't know what it means to be a Christian because we don't know what it means to know God. Some of us live in fear of Him. Others of us misunderstand Him. Many of us take Him for granted. There are those who see Him as distant and unknowable. He doesn't hear their prayers. He doesn't show up in their lives. For them, God is an impersonal, unperceivable God, who remains a mystery to them. But Jesus died so that we might know Him. He gave His life so that we might spend the rest of our lives getting to know God better and better. God desires a relationship with us. He wants to reveal Himself to us. He has placed His Spirit within us, provided His self-revealing Word to us, and proved His love for us. All He asks in return is that we seek to know Him, “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20 ESV).

Divine Protection.

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. – 1 John 5:18 ESV

1 John 5:13-21

The possibility of committing sin is an ever-present reality for believers, as much as it is for the lost. John made it clear earlier in his letter, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8 ESV). It is essential to remember that John was writing to believers in Jesus Christ, those who had placed their faith in Him as their Savior and sin-substitute. Jesus had died as the propitiation for their sins, completely satisfying a just and holy God by paying in full the penalty due to God for the sins of all the world – for all time. But while our sins are paid for and there is no longer any condemnation or death sentence hanging over our heads, we still have the capability to commit sin. Which is why John went on to say, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). In John's understanding of the doctrine of salvation, there is no doubt that he believed in the complete effectiveness of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. He knew and believed that Jesus “appeared to take away sins” (1 John 3:5 ESV). In fact, “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ESV). With His death, Jesus made it possible for those who believed in Him to live their lives free from the control of sin. He set them free from slavery to sin. Jesus made a life of righteousness not only possible, but the expected norm for His followers.

John gives us the encouraging and comforting news that “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning” (1 John 5:18 ESV). Sinfulness is no longer the normal behavior for believers. Before Christ, our entire lives were marked by sin. It was our only nature. All that we did was done in rebellion to and in defiance of God – even our best efforts and most righteous behavior. Prior to placing our faith in Christ, we followed “the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God's anger, just like everyone else” (Ephesians 2:3 NLT). We were driven by the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). We couldn't stop sinning. But all that has changed. We have received new natures. We have been given the Spirit of God to indwell and empower us. God has provided us with a new capacity to live in keeping with our new identity and standing. We are righteous, because of the righteousness which was imputed to us by Christ. On the cross, He exchanged our sin for His righteousness. Jesus, the one “who was born of God protects him” – the one who has faith is Jesus (1 John 5:18). Not only does Jesus save us, He protects us – preventing the evil one from touching us. On the night on which He was betrayed, Jesus spent time in the garden praying to His Father. One of the things He prayed was, “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one” (John 17:14-15 ESV). It was His desire then that we be protected from Satan, and it is still His desire today. While “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 ESV), we are protected by God as we continue to live in the midst of it. Praying on our behalf, Jesus asked the Father, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 171:17 ESV). Why, because we are not of this world any more than He was. We don't belong here. We are in enemy territory. We are surrounded. But we have divine protection. From sin and Satan. We know that, because we are born of God, we are no longer children of this world. We are no longer slaves to sin. “We know that we are from God” (1 John 5:19 ESV) and “no one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he was been born of God” (1 John 3:9 ESV). God's DNA has been implanted within us. We have been rewired from the inside out. As God's children, we are loved by Him, and because He loves us, He protects us. He watches over us. He will not leave us or forsake us. And He has His best in store for us.

Practical Prayer.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. – 1 John 5:16-17 ESV

John has just finished encouraging his readers “that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14 ESV). Now he provides a practical example of that kind of prayer. It is a scenario that each and every one of us has experienced at one time or another in our lives as believers. We have all found ourselves at one time or another in the unpleasant position of having seen a fellow brother or sister in Christ committing a sin of some kind. It could be that we caught them in a lie or we discovered a moral indiscretion. John's seems to be referring to a sin that is visible, not hidden. And his point is that the sin that is seen is one being committed by a believer. When that happens, we are to pray. We are to take the matter to God. This does not necessarily mean that we are not to confront the one we have witnessed committing the sin. James makes it clear that we have an obligation to help turn a brother from his son. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20 ESV). We are to do all that we can to help bring back a sinner from his wandering. But John's counsel is to begin with prayer. We are to take the matter to God. This is wise advice, because, ultimately, repentance is the work of the Spirit of God. We can confront, but God must convict. We can expose the sin, but only God can expose and expunge the sin from the heart of the sinner. So we must begin with prayer. We must pray for wisdom, so that what we say is communicated in love and in truth. We must pray for the Spirit to prepare the heart of the one who has sinned, so that they might be receptive to our words. We must ask God to bring about conviction and a heart of repentance. John indicates that our prayer will give the one for whom we pray life. Ultimately, it is God who gives life. We must always understand that our words accomplish nothing. It is God alone who can bring back a sinner from his sin. But God may use us in the process. We must remember that God has placed us in the body of Christ for a reason. We are to care for and love one another. At times that takes the form of admonishment and requires loving confrontation, but it must always be done wisely and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

In this passage John speaks of two kinds of sin. He encourages us to pray for a brother or sister in Christ who has committed a sin that does not lead to death. But he also refers to a sin that does lead to death. What is he talking about? What is this sin that leads to death? I think the key to understanding this passage is to remember the context. This entire letter began with the encouragement to remember that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. John has spent the entire letter giving proof as to the deity of Jesus and providing evidence of His claim to be the Savior of the world. For John, the rejection of Jesus as Savior is the sin that leads to death. That is why he makes it clear that our prayer is to be for a fellow believer. And our prayer is to be for any and all sins a believer in Jesus Christ might commit. But it does not include the sin of rejecting Christ as Savior, because the one for whom we are praying is a believer. For anyone who refuses to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their sin-substitute, the consequences are deadly. To deny Jesus as Savior is to remain dead in your trespasses and sins and under God's sentence of eternal separation from Him. “The distinction between the two sins must be found in the fact that sin ‘unto death’ is the Christ-rejecting behavior evidenced by those who also deny their own sinfulness, their need for atonement, and Christ’s ability to provide that atonement. Their sin is deadly because in the context of their current fundamental attitude towards Christ they have no hope of atonement’” (Tim Ward, ‘Sin “Not unto Death” and Sin “Unto Death” in 1 John 5:16’, Churchman 109 (1995), 236). This is not to say that we should refuse to pray for the lost. That is not John's point. His emphasis in this passage is to call believers to take sin seriously and pray for one another. He is providing a clear example of what it means to love one another. We love one another the most when we desire for one another God's best. Sin should be unacceptable to us – whether in our own life or in the life of a fellow believer. We should love one another enough to risk offense for the sake of our brother's spiritual condition. Love for our brother should outweigh fear of rejection. Their holiness should mean far more to us than their temporary happiness. Paul would have us remember, “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT). So don't be afraid to speak up. But before you do, make sure you lift up the matter to God.

Whatever We Ask?

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. – 1 John 5:14-15 ESV

Prayer is often a confusing and frustrating experience for the average Christian. It can also be one of the most misunderstood and misused disciplines in the life of the believer. The fact that we should pray is clear to most of us. That most of us attempt to pray is probably a safe assumption. But the experience of most believers when it comes to the subject and practice of prayer is one of inconsistency and impotency. Our prayer lives tend to be sporadic and powerless. Answers to prayer are rare and usually unexpected. So when we read a passage like the one above, we can either scratch our heads and wonder why what they promise doesn't seem to be true in our own lives, or we can get overly excited and conclude that we have been neglecting a veritable no-limits gift card to get whatever we want.

But John would have us approach prayer excitedly, expectantly, but also wisely. So he includes some important conditions when it comes to prayer. This is not the first time that John has addressed the topic. Back in chapter three he gave us the comforting news that “we have confidence before God;  and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:22 ESV). There are those intriguing words again – whatever we ask. It would seem that John is offering us some kind of carte blanche when it comes to prayer. He appears to be representing God as some kind of a cosmic genie in a bottle, ready and willing to grant our every wish. But John would have us tap the break and slow down our runaway excitement. He gives us a few caveats or conditions. We must keep His commandments and live in such a way that our lives please Him. This is not John's attempt to offer some kind of works-righteousness as a means to get things from God. He is simply presenting a picture of what it means to live in relationship, in intimate communion with God. As we abide in Him; relying on His strength, depending upon His wisdom, and resting in His sovereign will for our lives, we will tend to have a better idea of what it is that He would desire for our lives. Which is why John adds yet another condition for prayer in verses 14-15 in chapter 5: “if we ask anything according to his will.” For many of us, prayer has become little more than an exercise in expressing our will. We come to God telling Him what we want. We bring Him our list of requests and petitions. We inform Him what it is that we need Him to do and we even give Him our preferred timetable for delivery of our request. But even Jesus knew better than to demand of His Father anything that would be outside of His will. In the garden, faced with the looming prospect of His own death, He made an impassioned plea to His Father, but added an important disclosure. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV). Ultimately, Jesus wanted the will of His Father. He fully trusted His Father and placed His life in His hands. Coming to God in prayer is an incredible privilege, but it is also a right of every child of God. As John puts it, “we have confidence before God.” We can come into His presence. We can bring our requests before Him. And when we ask, we can know that He hears us. Not only that, “we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:15 ESV).

But we have all had the unpleasant experience of having our prayers go unanswered. We have asked of God and then stood back and watched as nothing remotely like what requested has come about. But these moments of seeming contradiction speak more of our lack of knowledge of God and our misunderstanding of prayer. It helps me to think of my prayers like the requests of a small child to a loving parent. Children can be inordinately self-absorbed. They can also lack discernment. As a result, they can sometimes make requests that are unwise and potentially unhealthy. A loving parent would never give in to every request made by their child. In some cases, they might answer the request, but in a slightly different manner or on what appears to be a much slower timetable. But in their wisdom, they do for their child what they believe to be best for them. That is how God deals with us. He wants us to bring our requests. But He also wants us to trust His will. He wants us to understand that He knows best what will bring us good while bringing Him glory. God's will is not our happiness, but our holiness. He is not here to grant our every wish. He exists to redeem, restore, renew, and rescue us from the damaging influences of a sin-filled world. We have to always remember that we are always susceptible to what John called the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life. Those things can weasel their way into our prayers. We can come before God desiring and asking for things that are outside of His will for us. And He is not obligated to give us everything we desire. Paul reminds us that God's will is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV). He also encourages us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2 ESV). It is essential that we understand that effective prayer goes hand-in-hand with our ongoing spiritual transformation. The more we come to know God and understand what His will is for us, the more clearly we will pray within His will. And in those times when we still do not know His will, we will be content to leave the outcome to Him. We will want His will to be done. And we will trust Him to know what is best for us, because He loves us.

Jesus = Life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. – 1 John 5:13 ESV 1 John 5:13-21

Near the end of the Gospel that bears his name, John gave his purpose for having taken the time to write it – “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31 ESV). John's intention was that those who read his account of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, would come to believe that He was the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah, and the Savior of the world. From the opening lines of his Gospel, John had made it clear that Jesus had been more than just another man. He was not merely a prophet sent by God. He was not simply a good teacher who taught about God. He was God in human form. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2 ESV). Notice that John refers to Jesus as the Word of God. John goes from speaking of Jesus as “the Word” to referring to Him as “he.” John went on to say, “In him was life and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4 ESV). John uses that same terminology to refer to Jesus in his letter – “the life was made manifest and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” (1 John 1:2 ESV).

John wrote his Gospel so that those who read about Jesus might believe in Him. He wrote his letter to believers, so that they might remain confident in their belief – all the way to the end. John wanted his believing audience to remember that their faith in Jesus was based on the promise of eternal life. And eternal life was only possible if Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be and who God the Father testified Him to be. “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concering his Son. And this is the testimony that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:10-11 ESV). To a certain extent, verse 13 of chapter five is a summation of John's entire letter. While he has covered a lot of topics in these five short chapters, the underlying theme has been all about eternal life. But we must remember that eternal life is not just a destination. It isn't some future residence or celestial city featuring a mansion with our name on the front door. John has already made it clear that Jesus is eternal life. “This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us” (1 John 1:2 NLT). Jesus isn't just our ticket to eternal life, He is that life. Listen to what He said of Himself. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25 ESV). “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 ESV). John confirms the claims of Jesus when he writes, “He is the only true God, and he is eternal life” (1 John 5:20 NLT). When Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV), He wasn't just referring to heaven. He was talking about an ongoing, abiding relationship with Him. Jesus is the abundant life we are looking for, not some kind of golden ticket to guarantee our entry into heaven. To have Jesus is to have life.

When Jesus walked this earth, He had a frank conversation with the religious leaders of His day. These men were experts when it came to the Scriptures. They thought knowledge of and adherence to God's Word was the key to having a right relationship with God. But Jesus told them, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39 NLT). Eternal life is found in Christ. The Scriptures point to Christ. God testifies to the claims of Christ. In fact, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11 ESV). John goes on to say, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12 ESV). All the life we will ever need we get in Jesus. In Him we have life abundantly and life eternally. The life Jesus offers isn't something reserved for us somewhere out in the future. Paul tells us, “though we were dead because of our sins, he [God] gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 2:5 NLT). “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13 NLT). We have life more abundantly, right now. We have eternal life, right now. And as Paul reminds us, even the lives we live in these earthly bodies, we live by trusting in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).


And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. – 1 John 5:11-12 ESV

1 John 5:6-12

Jesus came in order that we might have life. He boldly claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). On another occasion He stated, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). Paul wrote, “just as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 ESV). John picks up on this theme by stressing that God gave us eternal life through His Son. It is the same message he conveyed in his gospel. It was what he had heard Jesus talk about so often during His time on this earth. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). But this life is not just a future expectation. It is a present reality for the one who has believed and continues to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This life in Christ is far more than a guaranteed pass into eternity. It is our key to living abundantly, joyfully, confidently and powerfully right here, right now.

The life John speaks of is inseparable from Jesus Christ. It is directly tied to belief in Him as the Son of God and in God's testimony regarding Him as the Savior of the world. John makes the point, that to have the Son is to have life. To possess Jesus is to have taken possession of the abundant life He offers. Life and Jesus are synonymous. To reject Jesus as Savior is to reject life, not just eternal life to come, but abundant life here and now. It is to remain in death, condemned because of the penalty of sin. The apostle Paul would have us remember, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV). But the good news is that God showed mercy, and “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6 ESV). By believing in Jesus, we receive new life. John the Baptist said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36 ESV). Those who refuse Jesus as Savior find themselves still under God's wrath. Not only do they face a future, eternal separation from God, but they are in the unenviable position of being under His wrath and incapable of enjoying His peace and presence at this very moment. If they don't know Jesus as Savior, they don't know God. They are without life. In essence, they are the living dead. But God has offered life through His Son. And those who accept the gift of His Son's substitutionary death in their place, receive that life. They move from death to life. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14 ESV). Jesus promised us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24 ESV). Believing in Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior from sin and death, brings life. Yes, eternal life, but not just at some future point in time. We receive new life immediately. No more separation. No more condemnation. No more judgment. No more fear. No more death. Jesus described eternal life this way: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Knowing Jesus as Savior provides us with an intimate knowledge of God Himself. It creates a relationship with God and His Son – that is the essence of eternal life. We have been restored to a right relationship with God. We have been reconciled. And that relationship is as true today as it will be in the future. We are His children right now as much as we will be in heaven. We are as right with God as we will ever be. We have life. What an incredible reality. So let us live life to the full. Right here. Right now.

The Blood.

This is he who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. – 1 John 5:6 ESV 1 John 5:6-12

It is fascinating to me that so many Christians today want to reject any image of God as judgmental or wrathful. They cannot stand the idea of God being somehow associated with the events found in the Old Testament. So what they do is re-imagine the Bible, seeing it not as the divine Word of God, but as the writings of men. They portray it as the self-revelation of men, not the self-revelation of God. It is nothing more than men, in their unenlightened state, attempting to portray God. Surrounded by pagan imagery of gods who were characterized by wrath and vengeance, and who rewarded good behavior and punished “sin,” they mistakenly placed these same characteristics on God. But as their relationship with Him progressed, so did their understanding. So by the time Jesus came along, He was able to give them an enlightened view of God as loving, kind, gracious and merciful.

But here's the rub. That same God who Jesus introduced to the Jews of His day was the same God who required His own Son to die a cruel death on a Roman cross. Jesus had to sacrifice His life in order to pay for the sins of man. That had always been the way God worked. The Old Testament was a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ. In fact, the author of Hebrews spends a great deal of time talking about the Old Testament sacrificial system – a bloody, primitive-like and ritualistic collection of gruesome animal butcherings – and ties them to the death of Jesus. In referring to the sacrificial system, the author writes,    “For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NLT). This was a God-ordained system of sacrifice that was intended to provide remission from or forgiveness for the sins of the people. To us it sounds barbaric and cruel. But there was a divine purpose behind God's plan. “That is why even the first covenant was put into effect with the blood of an animal. For after Moses had read each of God’s commandments to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, and sprinkled both the book of God’s law and all the people, using hyssop branches and scarlet wool. Then he said, ‘This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you.’ And in the same way, he sprinkled blood on the Tabernacle and on everything used for worship. In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood” (Hebrews 9:18-22 NLT). Every year, thousands of innocent animals had to be sacrificed in order for the sins of the people to be atoned for. Their sins, including sins of omission and commission, inadvertent and premeditated, known and unknown, had to be paid for, or their was no forgiveness. God had a sacrifice or offering for every imaginable sin. Why? Because He is loving and gracious. He wanted His people to have a relationship with Him. But He knew that they were incapable of living sinless lives. He knew they could not remain faithful. So He instituted a system by which they could have their sins paid for and forgiven. But this was a temporary solution. It was a type of something far greater to come. “That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals” (Hebrews 9:23 NLT). For God to restore men to a right relationship with Himself, a greater sacrifice was required. A more precious, permanent and costly offering was going to be necessary.

Again, the author of Hebrews provides us with insight into these seemingly confusing and difficult to understand things. “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4 NLT). The sacrificial system was perpetual because the sins of the people were ongoing. The whole system was designed to show them their sins and remind them of their need for God. The blood of the bulls and goats was a temporary, impermanent fix to their problem. Something greater was needed. “For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:24-26 NLT).

Jesus died so that we might live. He gave His life so that we might have eternal life. His blood was shed for the permanent forgiveness of mankind's sins. But in order for that sacrifice to be effective, it must be received. Men must acknowledge their sin and their need for a Savior. They must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, sent by His Father to pay for the sins of the world. Peter makes it quite clear: “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:18-21 NLT). What kind of God would sacrifice His own Son to pay for sins He didn't commit? A loving, gracious, merciful, kind God. The God of Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, and every other Old Testament character. The God of the Bible. The God of creation. The God of the universe who is out to redeem His creation from the ravages of sin and death, and who chose to do it through the loving sacrifice of His own Son.

Present-tense Belief.

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. – 1 John 5:10 ESV 1 John 5:6-12

The problem with many of us as Christians is that we live in the past. We can recall the place, date and time when we accepted Jesus as our Savior. We can give our “testimony” as if it happened yesterday. But sadly, for more than a few believers, it makes little difference in the way they live their lives today. It is interesting that, as John attempts to assure us of the truth of Jesus' role as the Son of God, he uses present-tense language when talking about our belief. He writes, “whoever believes” – present tense. When he speaks of “whoever does not believe God,” he also uses the present tense again, along with the active voice. John's emphasis seems to be on a progressive, ongoing and active belief that is taking place in the present, not just the past. Having had a past belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is all well and good, but that belief should be continuous, having an impact on our lives in the here-and-now. Saving faith is present-tense faith. It doesn't live in the past, as some distant memory, but is an ever-present, always growing reality in the life of the believer. Peter tells us, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2 ESV). Paul told the believers in Ephesus they were to move from immaturity to maturity,  “growing in every way more and more like Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT). Neither Peter or Paul were suggesting that we can become any more saved than we already are, but we can continue to increase in our faith and grow in confidence that what we believed in at a given point in time was really true and continues to be true.

The real question we need to consider is what is the nature of our belief today? Has our faith increased? Are we still placing our trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord? I am not suggesting that you can lose your salvation. And neither was John. But our belief in Jesus Christ should be active and ongoing. The idea that I prayed a prayer, walked the aisle, gave my life to Christ or got “born again” is all well and good, but is my faith alive and well? Is my belief present tense? Is it active and growing? I have often wondered what our testimony really should be. Many of us have been trained to see our testimony as a past event. In other words, we think of it in terms of a point in time where we “accepted” Jesus. For me, that event took place nearly 53 years ago. I was seven years old and walked down the aisle of the church during what our denomination called the “invitation.” It was at that moment I “gave my life to Jesus.” That became my testimony. When someone asked me to share my testimony, it was to that point in time I would refer. But the older I get the more I realize that my testimony is a living thing. It is ongoing and alive. When a lost person wants to know what Jesus means to me, they are looking for present tense implications, not some past experience to which they can't relate. They want to know what Jesus is doing in my life right now. My testimony should be an evolving, ever-growing thing, as I continue to live out my life in faith and trust in God and His Son.

It is faith that is active and alive that gives us assurance. John writes, “ I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13 ESV). Once again, John uses the present tense. My ongoing belief in Jesus provides me with an ongoing assurance of eternal life. I have eternal life right now. It is not just a future promise, but a present reality. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT). The apostle Paul encourages us to keep on keeping on. He wants us to have an active, ongoing, present-tense faith. “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT). Keep on believing. Keep on trusting. Live in the present tense. Let your testimony be a living, vibrant, ever-changing witness to the goodness of God, the reality of your salvation, and the life-transforming power of the Spirit of God in your life.

God's Testimony.

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. – 1 John 5:11 ESV 1 John 5:6-12

Jesus is still on trial. Yes, He endured the trial before Pilate. He went through the mockery of a trial before the Jewish religious leadership and the high priest. He even had to submit to the inquiries of Herod, the puppet king of Jews, placed there by the Roman government. And after those trials were over, He was pronounced innocent and then sentenced to death. He died for claiming to be the Jewish Messiah. He was executed for claiming to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world. The plaque that was placed above His head on the cross declared His crime: King of the Jews. And He died.

But Jesus remains on trial today. There are millions upon millions who remain unconvinced and even unaware of His claim to be the Son of God and the Christ, the Messiah. There are those who have heard His claims and who even boast of believing in Him, but who reject His as having been divine or sinless. They simply view Him as having been a good man, a capable teacher, a moralist whose beliefs and actions are well worth emulating. But they reject any idea that suggests He was somehow God in human flesh. The same was true in John's day. The local church to whom he wrote his letter had recently experienced a split, as a portion of their fellowship had departed over the issue of Jesus' deity. They had refused to believe that Jesus was God in human flesh. They had rejected the idea that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. They had been teaching that sin was not a reality and, therefore, there was no need for a Savior from sin. In their self-righteousness, they believed they already had right relationships with God and were in no need of someone to die a sinless death in their place. But in rejecting Jesus, they were actually putting Him on trial again. Whether they know it or not, by their actions and beliefs, they are asking Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Luke 23:3 ESV). They are demanding, “If you are the Christ, tell us!” (Luke 22:67 ESV). “Are you the Son of God, then?” (Luke 22:70 ESV). The very same things Jesus had heard while standing before the religious council or the Jews. Some, like Herod, simply treat Jesus with contempt and scorn, mocking Him for claiming to be the Son of God.

But John would remind us that there is one witness whose testimony stands the test of time. There is one who unequivocally and unapologetically testifies to the veracity of Jesus' role as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. John writes, “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son” (1 John 5:10 ESV). At Jesus' baptism in the Jordan by John, God verbally confirmed the Sonship of Jesus. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV). On the mountain top, when Jesus had been transfigured before Peter, James and John, they heard God speak similar words. “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5 ESV). All throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, God had spoken of the coming of His Son as Savior. Isaiah wrote, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1 ESV). God had told Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through him – through his offspring. And Paul clarifies that, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16 ESV). God had made it clear that Jesus would be His Son and that, as His Son, Jesus would bring hope and healing to a lost and dying world. Even Jesus, while visiting His hometown of Nazareth, stood in the synagogue and read the following words from the book of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come” (Luke 4:18-19 NLT). Then He simply stated, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21 NLT). God testified. Jesus confirmed it. He was and is the Son of God. And “this is the testimony of God that he has born concerning his Son” (1 John 5:9 ESV). “That God gave us eternal life and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11 ESV). Case closed.


Spiritual Siblings.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been fathered by God, and everyone who loves the father loves the child fathered by him. By this we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and obey his commandments. – 1 John 5:1-2 NET

1 John 5:1-7

John has made it painfully and perfectly clear that, as believers, we are to love one another. He brings it up again here in chapter five. But as we learned in 1 John 4:7-21, we don't get to determine the definition or standard of that love. We are to love one another with a godly love – a love that cares deeply about our spiritual well-being. It is not that we are to ignore or overlook one another's physical, financial, or emotional needs, but I love you the most when I desire for you God's best. God sent His Son to die on the cross so that we might have new life, eternal life. He sacrificed His own Son so that we might be redeemed, not just get slightly improved. God's love for us desired His best for us. And it always does.

So I am to love my spiritual siblings with that kind of love. Which means I am to care deeply about their spiritual well being. So I am no longer free to simply address surface issues and ignore the heart issues that lie hidden underneath. I am not free to watch my brothers and sisters wallow in spiritual mediocrity and complacency. As their brother in Christ, I have a God-given obligation to love them as I have been loved. And I should be willing to sacrifice everything to see that they grow in Christ-likeness, mature in their faith, and increase in their knowledge of God. Paul told the believers in Galatia: “Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I'm going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives” (Galatians 4:19 NLT). He encouraged the believers in Ephesus, “speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15-16 NLT). As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to help one another grow. Christianity is not a solo-sport, it is a group effort. We are to grow together. The pastors and teachers are “to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church … until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13 NLT). The pastor's job is to equip the people to do God's work, which is to build up the church – the body of Christ. And we are not supposed to stop that work until we are all mature in the Lord and fully like Him. And as far as I can tell from Scripture, that will not take place until God calls us home or the Lord returns for His Church. So we have work to do. We have job security. Our task of loving one another will not end until we are all like Christ. And even then, our love will not cease. But rather than being geared toward mutual transformation, it will become much more focused on mutual adoration – love for one another and for God. Paul tells us, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT). Love is eternal, because God is eternal. God is love.

On this earth, our love for one another is put to the test because sin can make each of us unlovely and unlovable. But we are to love as we have been loved by God. Our goal is not reciprocal love, where we demand something in return. It is to be selfless and sacrificial, desiring God's best for the other person. My love for my brothers and sisters in Christ is to be based on God's love for them, His desire for them. I should want for them what He would want for them. God's will is their holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:3). That should be my will for them as well. John tells us the proof of our love for God is that we keep His commandments. And Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and others as ourselves. And John says, “his commandments do not weigh us down” (1 John 5:3 NET). We don't find them burdensome or hard to bear. In fact, we should enjoy loving one another, because we see fruit, we witness spiritual transformation, we watch as God transforms those we love into the likeness of His Son. We love one another most when we desire for one another God's BEST.

Can I Get A Witness?

For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. – 1 John 5:7-8 ESV 1 John 5:6-12

Jesus is the Son of God. That has been John's assertion throughout his letter. He was countering the claims of those who had left the congregation there in Ephesus. Those people had cast doubt on the validity of Jesus' incarnation and divinity. They had denied that He was the Christ, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. But John would have nothing to do with their false assertions. Over and over again, he wrote that Jesus was the Son of God. He even asked the somewhat rhetorical question, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5 ESV). Then John backed up this bold statement with facts. He provided “witnesses” to the reality of Jesus' deity and humanity. “And the Spirit is the one who testifies because the Spirit is the truth” (1 John 5:6 ESV). Eight different times, John uses words that have to do with testifying and testimony. He uses the Greek words, martyreō and martyria. The first one is a verb and means, “to be a witness, to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or heard.” The second one is a noun and refers to the testimony itself. John wanted his readers to know that the claims of Jesus had been backed up by expert testimony and it was not the testimony of men. First of all, the Spirit testified. But John added that the water and the blood were expert witnesses as well. “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (1 John 5:7 ESV). The very fact that the Spirit of God indwells the people of God is proof that Jesus was who He claimed to be. He had promised the when He left, He would send the Holy Spirit. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever; even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17 ESV). “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:38-39 ESV). John made it clear that the Spirit's presence in the life of the believer was proof that Jesus had come as the Son of God, died a substitutionary death on behalf of sinners, and rose again. His resurrection and ascension set the stage for the Spirit's coming. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us his Spirit” (1 John 4:13 ESV). But what about the water and the blood? What is John referring to with these two seemingly obscure words? It seems that there were some in the early church who believed that Jesus, the man, was the literal Son of God. They taught that when Jesus was born, he was born as a man. But at His baptism in the wilderness by John, the Spirit of the Christ came on Him. He was still just a man, but had the anointing of God on His life. They further taught that when Jesus hung on the cross, the Spirit of the Christ left Him. So when Jesus died, He did so only as a man and not as the Son of God. John rejected this teaching – vehemently and decisively. In fact, he used the occasions of Jesus baptism and death as witnesses for the deity of Christ. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17 ESV). Jesus did not become God's Son at that point. He had been His Son from before the foundation of the world. But it was at His baptism that God used the beginning of His earthly ministry to confirm His deity and role as the long-awaited Christ. It is interesting to note that Jesus did not NEED the baptism of repentance, because He was sinless. But He was identifying Himself with sinful man. Just as Jesus did not DESERVE to die on a Roman cross, because He was sinless and without guilt. He was identifying Himself with the sins of mankind, and He “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV). Jesus began His ministry at the Jordan and completed it on the cross when He claimed, “It is finished!” (John 19:30 ESV). The shedding of His blood culminated and completed His mission. His death was the crowning glory of His saving work for mankind. When we celebrate the Lord's Supper, it is a remembrance or commemoration of His broken body and shed blood. At the exact moment Jesus died on the cross, we are told, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51 ESV). There were other supernatural events that accompanied His death. But the tearing of the curtain that acted as a barrier into the Holy of Holies of the Temple was a stark visual illustration that Jesus' death had made access to God available to all. But John would have us remember, that it is belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the world that makes access into God's presence possible. “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12 ESV). God has done something remarkable and great. He has provided salvation for sinful man through His sinless Son. And the Spirit, the water, and the blood testify to the reality of that incredible truth.

New Birth = New Life.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. – I John  5:1 ESV 1 John 5:1-5

His status as a child of God was extremely important to John, and he wanted his readers to understand and appreciate just how significant their position as God's children was as well. He did not want them to take it for granted. He also did not want them to assume that this was a condition for which they were responsible. Their spiritual rebirth, like his, was a work of God – from start to finish. They had been “born of God.” The Greek word John used is gennaō and it can mean “to be born or begotten,” but it can also be used in a metaphorical sense, “in a Jewish sense, of one who brings others over to his way of life, to convert someone.” Of course, Jesus most certainly had the first meaning in mind when He used the very same word in His conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV). But Jesus also made it clear to Nicodemus that this new birth was a spiritual, not a human event. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6 ESV). All men and women experience a natural birth. They are born of water. They are born of the flesh. But Jesus said that unless you are born of water AND the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. There is a second birth required and that birth is spiritual in nature and completely the work of God.

But it is interesting to think about that second definition for the word, gennaō. It refers to one who brings others over to his way of life, converting and changing them. With the new birth, we become children of God. We are given new natures and a new way of living. No longer simply flesh-based, we are spiritual creatures with the very Spirit of God living within us. Paul puts it this way: “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul puts it even more bluntly. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29 ESV). To the believers in Ephesus he wrote, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:4-6 ESV). God has chosen us. He has, through the death of His own Son, provided a means by which we could be brought over to His way of life, converting and changing us. It is NOT our faith that changes us. It is Jesus. He is the one who has provided us with new life. Paul put it so well when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). It is our faith IN Jesus that provides us with new life. Paul describes how that happened. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 ESV). He goes on to say, “we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6 ESV). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have been been born of God. But even that capacity to believe has been given to us by God. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been save” (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV). God made us alive (syzōopoieō) together with Christ. We were dead in our sins, incapable of doing anything good or right, but God “quickened” us, putting the capacity within us to open our spiritually blinded eyes and see the truth of His gracious gift of new life in Christ. God regenerated us. Yes, we chose Christ. We placed our faith in Him. But even that choice had to be made possible by the grace and mercy of God. We who are children of God have truly been born of God. He chose to adopt us, not the other way around. He has made us His sons and daughters. And as a result of that new birth, we have been given new life. And the life we now live in the flesh, we live by faith in the Son of God. Same old bodies. Same old world. But new life, new nature, new power, new hope, new relationship with God, new future.


Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. – 1 John 5:1 ESV 1 John 5:1-5

Faith is an interesting subject. For many of us it is an all-too-familiar word that has lost much of its meaning. We use it easily in conversation, but would be hard-pressed to explain exactly what it is, if asked. We tend to use the word, faith, interchangeably with the words, belief and trust. We see faith referred to throughout the Scriptures. Paul writes, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17 ESV). The disciples asked of Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5 ESV). Paul told the Corinthian believers, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV). Jesus told us to “have faith in God” (Mark 11:22 ESV). And John has told us that faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). As followers of Christ, we are sometimes referred to as people of faith. But there are people of other faiths. Faith is not exclusive or unique to Christianity. People live by faith each and every day. Some put their faith in the political process. The majority of us place faith in the banking system to keep our money secure. The Greek word for faith most often used in the New Testament is pistis, and it means, “conviction of the truth of anything, belief.” It refers to belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence). There are those who place their confidence or trust in themselves. Others are convicted that their particular concept of the truth is the right one, whether they believe in many gods or no god at all. Even atheists have faith that God does not exist. Faith is not what sets us apart as Christians. It is the object of our faith. Our faith is in Christ. Our belief, our conviction of the truth is solely based on Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. That is what sets us apart. Paul wrote, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:8-9 ESV). It was the same message Paul and Silas had given the Philippian jailer. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31 ESV). Standing before the Jewish high priest and religious leaders, Peter declared, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV). Jesus is the object of our faith. Jesus is the source of our salvation. It is in Him we place our trust, hope, belief, and confidence. And when we do, we are born of God. We experience a spiritual transformation that is the work of God. Our faith does not change us, God does. It is not the depth or quality of our faith that brings about our spiritual rebirth. It is the object of our faith.

A big factor when it comes to placing our faith in Christ is that it requires that we turn from trusting in something else. When Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV), He was declaring that there was no other way by which men could be made right with God. No other religious system, belief, claim, or teaching was going to work. No matter how much faith you placed in it or how hard you believed about it. Part of what it means to repent is to “to change one's mind for better.” It is not just to turn away from your sins, but it is to change your thinking about everything you have known to be true. It is to have a change of mind regarding your own righteousness. It is to turn from whatever it is you have been trusting in and placing your confidence, hope and belief in Jesus Christ alone. When we place our trust in Christ, we are changed. God accepts us as His own and gives us a new nature. He places His Spirit within us. And He loves us as His own children. But our faith is not to stop there. Our belief and trust in Jesus is to last a lifetime, better yet, an eternity. It is our ongoing faith in Jesus that overcomes the world. We will constantly be tempted to place our trust in other things. Circumstances will compel us to turn away from Jesus and start placing our faith in something or someone else. But the Christian life is to be lived by faith in Christ alone. Paul warned the Galatian believers, “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Galatians 3:3 NLT). We are saved by faith. We are sanctified by faith. It is a spiritual endeavor, accomplished by the power of God. I must constantly remind myself that my faith must remain focused on Jesus as the Son of God and my source of salvation. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. But only if that faith is place in Jesus Christ. Any other faith in any other thing will prove disappointing in the end.


Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? – 1 John 5:5 ESV

When John speaks of overcoming the world, he uses the Greek word, nikaō, which means {to carry off the victory or to come off victorious.’ It comes from the root word, nikē, which simply means “victory.” Of course, we know it as the name of a certain sporting goods manufacturer. John had a certain affinity for the word, using it five different times in his letter and 17 times in the Book of the Revelation. While exiled on the island of Patmos, John received a vision from Jesus Christ Himself, providing him with divine insight into the end times. John was instructed to write about what he heard and saw. Near the end of his book, he recorded these words from Jesus, “‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son’” (Revelation 21:5-7 ESV). Jesus used the same Greek word to refer to those who will come off victorious in the end. But the victory will not be due to anyone's efforts other than those of Jesus. He is the one who will declare, “It is done!” On the cross, He cried out, ”It is finished!” He work of sacrifice was completed. He had done what His Father had set out for Him to do. He had given His life as a payment for the sins of mankind. But He rose again, because there was still more for Him to do. At this very moment He sits at the right hand of the Father, mediating on our behalf. He is our personal representative before God the Father. It is His very resurrected life that allows us to come into the Father's presence and enjoy intimate communion with Him. We enjoy the love of the Father because of the love of the Son. In fact, Jesus loves us so much, that He is actively involved in the everyday affairs of our lives. He didn't just save us, He is out to transform us into His likeness. His goal for us is our ever-increasing holiness. In the Book of the Revelation, John recorded these words of Jesus to the church at Laodicea: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:19-22 ESV). This was a church that Jesus described as “lukewarm.” They were neither hot or cold in their love for Him. They were contentedly complacent. In fact, Jesus went on to describe their attitude in less-than-flattering terms, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17 ESV). They were blind to their own spiritual reality. Rather than see their need, they mistakenly assumed they were spiritually healthy and whole. But Jesus begged them to zealously repent. He described Himself as standing at the door of their fellowship, knocking and pleading to allow Him into their midst. He was offering to have fellowship with them.

It would seem that the key to our victory, our nikē, is an ongoing, uninterrupted fellowship with Jesus. Our relationship with Him did not end at the cross. He is not only our Savior, He is our Lord and King. He is our brother. He is our mediator and intercessor. It is He, along with the indwelling Holy Spirit, who makes it possible for us to live victorious. We can overcome the world, from its daily temptations to give in to “the desires of the flesh, and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16 ESV) to its ongoing hatred for us (1 John 3:13). It is our faith in Jesus as Savior and our soon-and-coming King that gives us the victory we seek. It is our faith in Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God. There is no other means by which we can be saved and there is no other way we can experience victory over this world. Human effort will fail. While Nike's slogan, Just Do It, may sound reasonable and motivational, it will not work in the spiritual arena. Our faith must not be in ourselves and our own ability to pull off some degree of spiritual stamina. Our faith must reside in and remain in Jesus Christ. It is NOT our faith that makes the difference, but the object on which our faith rests: Jesus. We read these encouraging words from Jesus, spoken to the church at Laodicea. “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (Revelation 3:18 ESV). He was speaking to believers. He was inviting them to come to Him for all that they needed. He was offering Himself as the source for all their spiritual deficiencies. Jesus stands ready to help us. He wants to make us victorious. But we keep our faith solidly placed on Him and nothing and no one else.

Unfinished Business.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. – 1 John 5:3 ESV 1 John 5:1-5

When John wrote this passage, he more than likely had the words of Jesus Himself ringing in his ears. He had heard Jesus make similar statements on numerous occasions. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21 ESV). “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23 ESV). And when John added the line, “and his commandments are not burdensome,” he was probably thinking of Jesus' promise, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30 ESV). But he was likely speaking from experience as well. He had lived a long life and had probably spent more than five decades as a faithful follower of Jesus. He had watched the beginning of the church in those early days in Jerusalem. He had ministered as one of the apostles, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and helping spread the message of salvation through Jesus alone throughout the known world. He had been exiled to Patmos and was now well up in years, still fulfilling his pastoral duties to the faithful in Ephesus. He had been through a lot over the years, but knew that the commandments of God were not burdensome or too heavy to bear. Living in obedience to God was not overwhelming or impossible to pull off. For the one who believes in Jesus Christ, obedience comes supernaturally. It is made possible by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told John and the other disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17 ESV). The Holy Spirit is made available to all who place their faith in Jesus as their sin substitute and Savior. He is, as Paul so aptly put it, the “down payment” or guarantee that we are in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:22). He gives us the strength we need to obey willingly. But as John has stressed repeatedly throughout his letter, the key is that we abide. We must remain dependent upon God and fully aware of our daily need for Christ's ongoing redemptive work in our lives. His work, while fully sufficient for our salvation, is ongoing and unfinished when it comes to our sanctification. God is still in the process of transforming His children into the likeness of His Son. Paul wrote, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). Paul went on to tell the Philippian believers, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT).

Our love for God shows up through our obedience to Him. And the amazing thing is that He has provided us with the desire and the power to do so. Obedience to Him not only reveals our love for Him, but it plays a part in His ongoing transformation of us. It also produces joy in us. Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:10-12 ESV). The love of God goes full circle. He has loved us by sending His Son. His Son has loved us by giving His life. We love God by obeying His commands, and one of those commands is that we love one another. As we love one another, we are effectively expressing our love back to God. The world would have us live selfishly, with the focus on our own wills. The world would have us love, but only if we receive love in return. The world would encourage us to live myopic, me-centered lives where the goal is our own self-satisfaction. But John says, “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4 ESV). As we live in faith, trusting in Jesus for our salvation as well as our sanctification, relying on the Holy Spirit for the desire and the power to do what pleases God, we overcome the world. We live in victory right here, right now. No, not perfectly or completely. For God is not done yet. We will fail and we fall. We will give in to temptations. We will occasionally turn the spotlight back on ourselves. We will even disobey and distrust God. But He is still at work. The words of Paul provide us with comfort and encouragement. “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation — the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ — for this will bring much glory and praise to God” ( Philippians 1:9-11 NLT). God has unfinished business. But “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”


Born From Above.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this its the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. – 1 John 5: 4 ESV 1 John 5:1-5

As he has done so many times before in his letter, John uses a comparison or contrast to make a point. He has used light and darkness, truth and falsehood, sin and righteousness, as well as love and hate. Now he brings up a slightly more subtle comparison. And yet, it is the key to understanding who we are, what it is we are up against, and how we are to come out victorious in the end. It is not exactly a new topic, because he covered it before. But this time he ties it to something highly significant: our victory. On one side of the comparison or contrast is John's term: “born of God.” This term is a differentiator for John. He is not referring to creation. All men and all things were made by God. But not all are “born of God.” That distinction is made possible only by belief in Jesus as the Christ. So for John, all mankind falls into one of two categories. They are either born of God or of this world. Or as he put it in even starker terms earlier in his letter: “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil” ( 1 John 3:10 ESV). There is a clear line of demarcation that separates one group from the other. It is the new birth. We often refer to it as being “born again.” It is interesting to note that when Jesus was secretly pursued by Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, that Jesus said to him, I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above,  he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NET). The Greek word Jesus used was anōthen and it has a double meaning. The one we traditionally see rendered in this verse is “anew or again.” But the other meaning is “from above, from a higher place; of things which come from heaven or God.” It seems likely the Jesus was referring to being born of God or from above, and that Nicodemus, based on his response, heard Jesus to say he had to be born again. It would seems that Jesus is teaching us that our new birth is a work of heaven. It is not of this world. It is a supernatural, divine undertaking that is based solely on faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Belief in Jesus as Savior and as the only means by which men can be made right with God results in a divine act of procreation. When one places his faith in Jesus, he is born from above. This is an incredible transaction that takes place at the very throne of God in heaven. Which is why Jesus said to a very confused Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12 ESV). Jesus had tried to explain to Nicodemus what this heavenly birth meant. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6 ESV). Faith in Jesus as our sin substitute and Savior results in a new birth and a new identity. We become children of God who have been born from above by God. And then John gives us the encouraging news, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4 ESV). But what does that mean? We have been born from above, but we have been left below. We remain in this world, suffering with the same temptations, the same results of the fall, including sickness, disease and eventually death. So how have we overcome? What has our faith in Jesus given us victory over? The apostle Paul gives us the answer in words that are far to eloquent to attempt to paraphrase them.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-39 NLT

Our faith in Jesus results in our new birth. Our new birth makes us children of God. Our new status as His children makes us victorious. We win in the end. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Our own sins can't condemn us or remove us from our rightful place as His sons and daughters, because Christ has paid for our sins once and for all time. We are overcomers. We are victors. We are more than conquerors. We have been born from above.

Do We Really Love?

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. –1 John 5:2 ESV 1 John 5:1-5

Repeatedly throughout his letter, John has strongly encouraged us to love one another. But he has only given us one example of a practical application of this command. We find it in verse 17 pf chapter 3. “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" Then John clarifies his question with a statement. “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18 ESV). Seems pretty clear, doesn't it. Our love is to show up in legitimate action. But no where else in this letter does John give us a list of acceptable actions that would prove we are loving correctly – as Jesus has loved us. He doesn't provide us with five steps to follow or ten iron-clad examples of godly love. Because if he had, we would turn those things into measuring rods of righteousness. Take John's example from chapter three. We might see a brother in need and write a check to help him get back on his feet. Or we might give him a handout of cash to help him bide his time. And in doing so, we might feel as if we had loved him. But notice that John says the problem to begin with is that the brother with the worldly goods “closes his heart” against the one in need. He sees the problem but doesn't allow his heart to engage. Writing a check can be a heartless activity. Giving someone cash can be as well. The King James Version paints a much more vivid picture of what is going on in this illustration. It reads, “and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him.” The Greek word John uses means “to shut up compassion so that it is like a thing inaccessible to one, to be devoid of pity towards one.” The word translated “heart” in the ESV is translated “bowels” in the KJV. It is the Greek word, splagchnon. Check out what Strong's Concordance has to say about it:  “the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart (tender mercies, affections, etc.).” This all ties back into Paul's great love chapter in 1 Corinthians. We can do a lot of great things, but if they are done without godly love, without mercy, compassion, kindness and a legitimate love for the one being helped, they are all worthless in the end.

John says we must not love in word and talk, but in deed and in truth. The word, talk, can also be translated, “tongue.” It is as if John is saying, “don't just act like you love someone by speaking words that come from nowhere other than your tongue.” Instead, we are to love in deed, in actions, but backed up by truth. Truth refers to “what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth.” It is to love as God has commanded us to love. Which brings us back to our passage for today. John tells us, “By this we know that we love the children of God” (1 John 5:2 ESV). Again, it's significant that John does not supply us with a list of acceptable deeds or actions to follow. But what he does give us is a way of knowing that we are truly loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is when we love God and keep His commandments. Then he qualifies it further by saying that to love God is to keep His commandments. I think this helps us understand what John meant earlier by deeds done in truth. It is doing what God would have us do, as made known to us in His Word. We show our love for God when we live our lives in obedience to His Word. And John lets us know that when we do, we will find God's commandments not burdensome. They won't feel heavy and oppressive to us. In fact, they will be a joy to obey because of the benefits and blessings they bring to us and to others through us.

When we remove the truth, God's Word, from the equation, we will tend to love one another according to the world's standards. We may end up showing compassion or mercy to a brother or sister in need, but to love them in truth is to love them as we have been loved by God. It is to care about them as children of God. It is to care as much for their spiritual well-being as we care about their physical needs. Worldly love tends to focus on the externals. But godly love focuses on the heart. So many of the issues we end up dealing with in our attempt to “love one another” are symptoms. And it isn't that we should ignore the symptoms, but we must look to the root cause of the problem. We must learn to look at the heart. This is where it can get messy. When we begin to learn to look past the surface issues and into the heart, we will find we are loving as God has commanded us to love. Paul writes, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important” (Galatians 6:1-2 NLT). Godly love is costly love. It requires sacrifice. It involves the heart. It is obsessed with the spiritual health of the other. It meets needs, but never on just a surface level. It digs deep. It obeys well.