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In today’s Bible reading, John tells us about Jesus’ first miracle. Jesus and His disciples have been invited to attend a multi-day wedding (as was common). Mary, Jesus’ mother tells Him that they ran out of wine. She doesn’t tell Him what to do. John doesn’t tell us what she expected Jesus to do. Jesus responds that this shouldn’t concern Him. He isn’t the groom. It isn’t His party. Today, He might respond, “Not my circus. Not my monkeys!”

Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Jesus doesn’t “do” anything. He doesn’t say anything except to dip water out of the jars and take it to the master of the feast. The master of the feast calls aside the bridegroom and asks why the best wine wasn’t used first. John highlights the fact that the better wine is normally served first and then the cheaper wine is served later. But in this case, Jesus has turned water into the better wine.

Just this past Sunday, I preached on the Parable of the New Wine needs New Wineskins and I included a reference to today’s chapter. I pointed out the fact that until Louis Pasteur discovered Pasteurization in the 1800s, all grape juice was alcoholic. You couldn’t pick up a bottle of Welch’s Grape Juice at the grocery store because they didn’t have a way to keep the juice from fermenting. The implication is clear: Jesus didn’t turn water into juice. He turned water into the “good stuff”. And note: Each of the six jars contained 20-30 gallons of water. That’s 120-180 gallons of good wine!

Application

Why would I highlight this today? Look at the context: Jesus is celebrating marriage with His family and friends. A need arises. And Jesus supplies above and beyond the need.

Just like He always does!

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Nero
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Peter continues addressing his persecuted, exiled readers (1 Peter 2:11) in today’s Bible reading. Last month, I commented on the historical context around the middle of the First Century. I mentioned Nero was the Roman Emporer at the time. Under Nero’s reign, Christians were persecuted far beyond what many of us can imagine today. “Pure evil” is the only way I can describe it without going into the ugly details.

And yet… Peter tells his readers to submit to every human authority. And lest there be any confusion, Peter says clearly that his command includes the “emperor [Nero] as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good.” (1 Peter 2:13–14 CSB)

So what does “submit” mean? Submit was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.[1]

Submission is not a bad word. In fact, no military unit can properly function without it. No marriage can properly function without it. No church can properly function without it. And no country can properly function without it. There has to be a chain of command. The pastor who married Amy and me said, “Anything with more than one head is a monster.”

Peter gives his rationale for his command in verses 12 and 15. “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.” 1 Peter 2:12, 15 (CSB)

Did you catch that? Peter says the reason Believers should submit even to the evil Emperor Nero was so that God would be glorified. He adds that silencing foolish ignorance by doing good is God’s will. Well, you can’t argue with that!

Application

Most of my readers live in the United States and do not have first-hand knowledge of real religious persecution. However, readers in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes may know people who have experienced persecution. They may have even had to alter their way of doing life — especially church life — in order to coexist in a restrictive environment. I have friends who live in one of those restrictive countries and they have to be very careful in the way they communicate prayer needs back to churches in the US. In fact, they don’t even use the words “pray”, “church”, or “Jesus Christ” in their email correspondence.

But regardless of where you live, Peter’s instructions are clear: Submit to every human authority. Every human authority. You may or may not like your President. You may or may not like your Chancellor. You may or may not like your Prime Minister. But regardless of how you feel about your leaders, if you are a Believer, you are obligated to submit to those authorities (1 Peter 2:13-14) and to pray for them. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

[1] Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 1995 : n. pag. Print.

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Sales

Did you know that the antichrist is already here? John says he’s already in the world. And he wrote that during the last half of the First Century.

John begins 1 John 4 in today’s Bible reading with a warning to test the Spirits. (1 John 4:1) So how do you know which spirits to believe? John answers that question for us.

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:2-3 (CSB)

One scholar says, “To test the spirits is ‘Put them to the acid test of truth as the metallurgist does his metals. If it stands the test like a coin, it is acceptable , 2 Cor. 10:18), otherwise it is rejected.'”[1]

It’s so easy to turn on the TV to a “Christian” program, or tune into a “Christian” radio station and hear all kinds of teachings from all kinds of Bible teachers. And not all of the Bible teachers are teaching Biblically-sound teachings. Oh, they may quote the Bible. They may throw around some Greek or Hebrew words. But how do you know if what you’re hearing is right?

The early church struggled with this question. The Apostles’ warnings are laid out in their letters to the young churches and their leaders. And back then, there was a higher level of accountability than there is today. Back then, all you’d have to do is call out the false teachers in a letter and the local pastors confronted them. But today with 24/7 “Christian” TV and radio — not to mention the Internet — there is little to no accountability of the false teachers and their false teachings. Don’t believe me? Call the teacher/preacher/writer and ask the receptionist to let you speak with him/her. Trust me, you won’t be able to talk with him/her. They have more important things to do.

Application

Regardless of the times and the technology, each of us is responsible to make sure that the preachers/teachers/writers we learn from are teaching consistently with the Bible. And that means Believers must test the spirits for themselves. Your pastor can help to point you in the right direction. And that’s one very good reason to be plugged into a good, Bible-believing church. But even your pastor may not know if a particular preacher/teacher/writer is teaching God’s Word legitimately.

Applying John’s counsel, look at what the Bible teacher/preacher/writer says about Jesus. Is the Jesus he/she teaches the Jesus revealed in the Bible? Just talking about “Jesus” doesn’t mean it’s the Jesus of the Bible. What does the teacher/preacher/writer have to say about the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Does what he/she say line up with all of Scripture? Does he/she say that God’s Word is our ultimate authority on Who Jesus is? Does listening to him/her make you feel uncomfortable about sin? Does listening to him/her make you want to live more of a God-centered life?

Yes, it’s very important to put Bible teachers/preachers/writers to the acid test. And just because they passed the test ten years ago doesn’t necessarily mean they would pass the test today. Don’t let down your guard. Your walk with Jesus is impacted by who you watch, listen to, and read. Be careful. Test the spirits.

[1] Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933. Print.

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Hatred

In today’s Bible reading, John offers the comforting words that haters are going to hate Believers. Gee, thanks John! You sound just like Job’s encouraging friends!

But hould we really expect anything else from lost people? Lost people are going to act like lost people! Besides, if they hated Jesus, why would they feel different about His followers? (Matthew 10:22–25) They won’t.

Application

If haters are going to hate, why should Believers even deal with the fear of man? If they’re going to hate you, why try to please them? Why try to curry their favor?

Now, I’m not saying that we should return hate for hate. Quite the opposite. The New Testament consistently teaches that Believers are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

Peter tells the persecuted church not to pay back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

And Paul reminds the Romans, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 CSB)

There’s nothing you can do to stop them from hating you and your Lord. But do everything you can to live in peace with everyone and pray for your haters. Because haters are going to hate.

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Transformation from what you are

In today’s Bible reading, John says that our relationship with God doesn’t exist in a vacuum. How we live affects our relationship with God. And how we live with others affects our relationship with God.

Coming into a relationship with God is a free offer. There are no demands on us. We don’t have to (as if we could!) clean up before we come to Christ. God’s offer is to come as we are!

So we come as we are. But God doesn’t want us to stay as we are!

Application

God wants to transform us from the inside-out, in ways we can’t change ourselves — ways that run far deeper than mere behavior change. But behavior change is part of the change He wants to work into our lives. And behavior change demonstrates the deeper, inward change. One of those behavior changes is the way we relate to other people.

How do you feel about other people? Is there anyone who you do everything you can to avoid being around? It’s understandable to want to avoid someone who has mistreated you. But I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about avoiding someone simply because of the way they look, the way they smell, the way they behave, where they live, their job (or their lack of a job), the language they speak, or the country they’re from. Is there anyone you wouldn’t want to spend eternity in heaven with? Anyone?

You are no more deserving of eternity in heaven than anyone else who ever walked on this planet. Anyone. Ever.

And no one is less deserving of spending eternity in heaven than you are. No one. We all come based on Jesus’ atoning sacrifice … alone.

If that’s true, why would you not want to tell someone — anyone — about the greatest news ever heard?

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