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Holiness

1 2 3 9
The intersection of Truth and Love

John is often called “John the Beloved”; he refers to himself as “The disciple Jesus loved”. (John 20:2)

In today’s Bible reading, John emphasizes the two-pronged approach to pleasing God: Love and Truth. (2 John 1:4-6, 9) If you’re going to walk with Jesus, you can’t have one without the other.

Each day, as I read my Facebook Newsfeed, I see a lot of posts about the importance of Truth. I also see a lot of posts about the importance of Love. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of posts that intersect Truth and Love.

Sometimes it’s very discouraging to see truth spoken so harshly by Believers. I often scratch my head asking how these people can be so harsh when they claim to preach grace. It’s also discouraging to see posts by Believers who have little-to-no regard for the Truth as revealed in Scripture, and only promote Love.

But John says we need both Truth and Love.

Application

If you look at the street signs above, you’ll see that we’re standing at the intersection of Truth and Love. Truth and Love aren’t the opposite ends of one street. They actually are two separate streets. Truth Street has Truth at one end and Error at the other end. Love Street has Love at one end and either Hate or Apathy at the other end.

Perhaps I need to be more judicious with the Facebook Groups I read. How about you? Do you tend to lean more toward Truth-Centered or Love-Centered?

As I typed this devotional, I had to go back and correct an easy, but completely wrong conclusion. I originally suggested that we think about how we can be more balanced between Truth and Love.

And then I realized that you don’t have to choose one over the other! Instead, we should look for the intersection of Truth and Love.

Paul tells us we need both Truth and Love to be mature Believers.

But speaking the truth in love,
let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.

(Ephesians 4:15 CSB)

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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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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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Arms lifted in praise to God

As I was reading today’s Bible reading, God reminded me that He isn’t a stingy God.

Pondering this thought, I can’t think of anywhere in the Bible where God limits Himself in giving of Himself to His people. Actually, I cannot think of anywhere in the Bible where God limits Himself in giving of anything … good or bad. And Paul highlights this in Titus 3:4–7 “But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.” (CSB)

James tells us, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (CSB)

God gives to all “generously and ungrudgingly”. The actual wording Paul uses is, “God Who simply gives without blame” What a great picture of a loving, freely-giving God!

Jesus put it this way,
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Luke 11:9–13 (CSB)

God loves to shower His kids with gifts, mostly the gift of Himself! In saving us, Paul tells Titus, God didn’t hold back. Instead, He poured out His Spirit richly — or abundantly, depending on your English translation. This word richly/abundantly means, “a high point on any scale and having the implication of value as well as abundance”[1]

Yes, God loves to give. And He doesn’t give just a little bit. He gives a lot!

Application

What could be a more appropriate response to His giving than to simply give Him praise, honor, and glory? He is worthy of all of that and more. We are created in His image with an incredible capacity to give. Spend some time today simply asking Him how He would have you to give of yourself to your family, friends, including the lost ones. Ask Him how He would have you to give of your time, your talents, and your treasures to further His Kingdom.

Then simply obey what He tells you to do.

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 685. Print.

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Man looking in the mirror

In today’s Bible reading, Paul continues with similar topics as we saw in his letter to Timothy. He tells Titus, “Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8 CSB)

Paul puts a lot of pressure on these young pastors. He holds them to a high standard. But it isn’t a standard that they aren’t able to live up to as they live in dependence on the Holy Spirit. Oh, on their own, they’re in deep weeds! But leaning into the power of the Holy Spirit living through them, it’s a day-by-day experience of seeing God work through them. Paul knows they’ll never “arrive”. They’ll always have to live one day at a time, taking up their cross to follow Jesus. It’s a daily choice that every Believer must make. (Luke 9:23)

For Paul, you can’t say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Paul knows that a life of integrity flows out of a close walk with Jesus.

Application

There are inconsistencies in our lives. If you think you don’t have any, just ask God and listen. Spend time in His Word and He’ll tell you. When He shows you things that don’t look like Jesus, thank Him for the forgiveness that He gave His children through Jesus’ death on the cross.

The entire Christian life is one of daily cross-taking. It’s a life of daily self-denial. It’s a daily reflection, looking for Jesus and asking God to bring out the character of Jesus in your life. And it’s asking God to take away the things that don’t look like Jesus.

It’s true for young pastors like Titus and Timothy. And it’s true for you, too.

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1 2 3 9

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