There is no doubt the last couple years have been in disarray. Mainly because of the Coronavirus. One of, if not the fastest, spreading viruses that has existed in the modern era. Since its unveiling, the world has shut down, economies have crashed, people have died and overall the world has changed. All because of one rapidly spreading disease.
I realized something today as I read the passage for today, 2 Thessalonians 3, if something so negative could change the world so much, why couldn’t something good change it even more. The first verse of 2 Thessalonians 3 reads, “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;”
Now you may see where I am going with this illustration. If a disease can be so impactful why would the Gospel not be even more impactful? Since Jesus was revealed to us by God as the Messiah, the world has changed but for the better, and people are finding more life than ever with his message. We have an opportunity to spread the Gospel, and I know that it is way more beneficial to the world than some dumb virus. With the power of God I hope that you will remember to spread the word just as fast if not even faster than any disease that exists. It is ultimately the Gospel that wins in the end.
Even the great evangelistic missionary Paul asked for prayers in spreading the gospel. Who will you ask to be praying for your efforts to spread the gospel? Who will you be praying for?
What value do you put on the gospel message?
What other instructions did Paul leave with the Thessalonians in this chapter?What were they to do with believers who did not follow these directions?
My last devotional for this week comes out of Proverbs 19:18. It says, “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” After doing this for a week now, the first portion of this passage made me immediately think about Amon. Remember him? He was that king of Judah that was murdered by his servants after reigning for only 2 years. He did evil in the sight of Yahweh. His father, Manasseh, also did evil in the sight of Yahweh but eventually repented and renewed his status with God. I had commented to myself on paper, thanking God for repentance – as there’s still time for it. What if you don’t have the time like Amon? What if you don’t even know that repentance is an option? This is why we are commissioned! Find those Josiahs and let them know the good news!
Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death… Why would any good parent desire their child’s death? My studies this week have also led me to some wisdom, I think, regarding the latter portion of this verse in Proverbs. I don’t think I would have understood the latter part if I hadn’t immersed myself in the word for a week. Words mean something. This is a wise, powerful statement that lets us know we DO desire our children’s death if we don’t take action to discipline them. We’ve got a great commission in our own homes if we are parents.
I have been wanting to do a study on child-rearing for a while now. Since I desire that my children live, I started by looking into discipline as it is demonstrated in the word. I found that my idea of discipline was nothing like what discipline actually meant in the bible.
Look at the Old Testament and how God, through Moses, disciplined the children of Israel in comparison to the New Testament and how God, through Jesus disciplined.
Deuteronomy 11:1-13 (NIV)
11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.
8 Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 9 and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.
13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—
Let’s go through this passage carefully. Through Moses, God disciplined the 12 tribes of Israel (the children of Israel). He disciplined them by first showing them his majesty, or who he was (Yahweh God!). Who he was could be recognized by the works he did (e.g., signs, miracles, plagues). He rescued them (from Egypt) and defeated their enemies (Egypt in the red sea). Along their journey to the promised land, he performed miracles to sustain them in the wilderness (e.g., manna, water from a rock). He got rid of the people among them who were insolent and tried to usurp Moses (i.e., Dathan and Abiram; Korah).
He then disciplines the children of Israel by telling them to obey the commandments they were given (i.e., obey the law of Moses) so that they would have strength to enter the promised land. He entices them to obey the law of Moses by describing how wonderful their hope is. In it, they will have long life and it will be well with them. In it, they will have good things (flowing with milk and honey). It is a land they won’t have to tend themselves (like they did in Egypt) to receive the good things in it. The good things will be sustained through heaven. To me, the last verse shows God’s heart. He cares so much about that land that he desires to give to his children.
Now let’s look at the New Testament and the discipline of God through Jesus. He pretty much does the same thing but gives greater honor and authority to Jesus since Jesus literally is the one who rescues the people.
In the New Testament, Jesus disciplined the 12 disciples by showing them who he was (is) (The Son of God! The Messiah – pretty much described throughout the whole book of John). Who he was (the Messiah) could be recognized by the works he did in their presence. There were some pretty distinctive works he did that pointed to himself as the Messiah (i.e., Isaiah 35:5-6a “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.).
It is Jesus himself who rescued them from their enemy (sin and death) by his death on the cross. Once seated at the right hand of God in heaven, it is Jesus who sustains them along their journey to the Kingdom of God (KOG). Post resurrection, it’s up to them (and us) to do these final things to enter into the KOG through Jesus. Jesus is the bread of life and he is the rock of our salvation who provides living water. He chastens us by pruning us along our journey (e.g., If your right hand offends you, cut it off – get rid of the people and things in your life that try to usurp Jesus as Lord of your life because they’ll prevent you from entering the KOG).
Jesus disciplines us by telling us to obey the Law of Christ (i.e., Love God and love people like Jesus loved). We need to obey these commandments so that we will have strength (through the receiving of the holy spirit) to enter the KOG.
The love of Christ compels us to obey by enticing us with the good things in the KOG, our hope. In the KOG, we will live forever with Jesus (and eventually with God himself). God will wipe away every tear from our eye; sin and death will be no more (the incorruptible crown; the crown of life). In it, we will be rewarded with good things, positional rewards based on how we built upon the foundation that was laid for us (built upon Jesus) (the crown of rejoicing; the crown of righteousness). If you’re an elder in your church, you’ll receive a crown of glory!
Once there, we won’t have to labor like we do now to enjoy the KOG. There will be a river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and from the lamb. In it will be the tree of life on either side of the street with 12 kinds of fruit. The leaves of the tree will be for the healing of the nations. I realize that this may not all be literal. All I really know is that it will be unimaginably good and that God and my Lord Jesus will be there, so I’d like to be there too.
And then for my correlation of the last verse. I can only imagine the joy Jesus must have when he thinks about the coming KOG. It is his reward. He’ll be ruling the whole world from the new Jerusalem. I think this was God’s plan all along, with Jesus in mind as the king of his kingdom before the foundation of the world, to a people whose desire is for them whom they love.
Going back to the Old Testament passage, we see that not all of the children of Israel were witnesses to God through Moses. Therefore, he instructs them to discipline their children who were not witnesses. An example of discipling for the children of the children of Israel who were not direct witnesses was laid out for us in Deuteronomy 11.
Similarly, not many of us were direct witnesses to Jesus’ ministry on earth. Therefore, he instructs his disciples to discipline the rest of us who were not direct witnesses. I believe that through the power of the holy spirit however, we too can be called witnesses of Jesus, and are therefore also commissioned to discipline our children and others (the Josiahs). An example of discipling for us is laid out in the new testament, beginning with the gospels.
I love the book of John, and I am so glad I get to lead us in this week, because John 20 is one of my favorite chapters.
This week we are discussing the early church. We will be ending John and moving into Acts. While Luke shows us the crucifixion, resurrection, and later the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost as the beginning of the church, John shows us the beginning of the church here in chapter 20.
In the opening verses, Jesus is RISEN! Jesus, in John, clearly laid down his life of his own accord, and clearly takes it up again. There is no doubt in the mind of Jesus or the author about what he was doing. Jesus was saving humanity! Jesus was giving the final sign that he is the Messiah, and 8th sign, signifying that he is creating something new. The disciples sprint to see the empty tomb but go away. Mary stays. Jesus sends her to let them know that his words were true, he had been raised, just as he said. He sends her out.
This sending of Mary is mirrored in what Jesus does to the apostles is verse 19. They are sitting in fear, but Jesus shows up and gives them his peace. Then in verse 22-23 we get a weird picture. Jesus breathes on his disciples, post-CoViD, masks, and social distancing, we may feel like Jesus was in their personal space. But he says, “Receive the spirit”. The Holy Spirit, the power, presence, and promise of God to those who would believe in the Messiah, is the very breath of Jesus. What John is showing is that this powerful spirit that shows up in Acts and shakes the city and changes the world, is the breath of Christ. He gives his disciples spirit for power, for forgiveness, for judgement. This is John showing us the birth of the church.
However, the verses I want us to really see are the last three of the chapter. “Doubting” Thomas gets an unfair, if earned, nickname. Yes he doubted. But no one has ever brushed off a crucifixion before. No one gets executed and wakes up a couple days later. Jesus is the exception to the rule. But when Jesus shows up, Thomas believes, declaring “My Lord and My God.” Jesus recognizes the belief of Thomas and says “Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are those who did not see, and yet believed.”
My brothers and sisters, that is you. Jesus spoke of how YOU are blessed for having faith without sight. Jesus knows that it is a difficult thing to believe, to be the church. But, like Mary, like Peter, like Thomas, like John, we are called, in faith, to tell others the message of the early church, the message that is still true today. “These things (the book of John) 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) If you believe, have faith without sight, that Jesus is the Christ, as John has been showing, as Peter and Paul declared, as Jesus himself testified to for 40 days on earth, then YOU have life in his name. That is the message of the early church, it is the message of the medieval church, it is the message of the contemporary church, and it will be the message of the church until the end of the age. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and we have life in his name.
Let us, his breath-filled, Spirit-empowered followers, be his witnesses to the world.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 1 Samuel 9-10 and John 20
The Easter Story is one of the most beautiful stories ever written, and the best part is, it’s even true! It is a part of a plan written by God and fulfilled through Jesus by his obedience to death on the cross all those years ago. There was purpose in this suffering: so that the sins of the world could be forgiven. There is purpose in every season. Likewise there was purpose in his life of ministry and ultimately purpose in his resurrection. All the seasons of his life brought about God´s perfect and pleasing will. God can use anything and everything for His good. Even pain and suffering. Even a blood-stained cross. Even the death of His precious son.
Jesus knew what he was called to do and he followed through, he died on the cross for our sins. For three days the world was without hope. At the time they all believed that a Savior would come with sword and shield to bring victory over the Romans. It would then make sense that they would reject Jesus as their Messiah because his entire life and tragic death was the exact opposite as how they expected their Savior to come. Thankfully though, God gives us what we need not what we think we want.
Although Jesus´ disciples were plainly told all the things that were to take place including the hope of Jesus´ resurrection, there was no anticipation of his return because they had forgotten that God´s plans are larger than life- even larger than death, Jesus´ death. They hoped that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. Not only did he redeem Israel, but the world, just not in the way they believed it would happen.
Someone asked me recently what my passions were. But it got me thinking, how do my passions and talents fit together into God´s grand plan? How do I fit into His story? The women who first found the tomb empty were staying focused on doing their ministry. Likewise the disciples all took part in the Great Commission, being witnesses of all that had happened. After Jesus´ ascension they set out to spread the gospel even to the point of becoming martyrs. How can I use where I am in life and who I am in Christ to further God’s plan?
Jesus entrusted his entire life- even life itself- into God´s hands. And it wasn´t without God´s response to Jesus´ obedience. The process is like the call and response section in the back of the hymn books. Back and forth between God and His people. It started in the beginning with God when he created the world and everything in it and brought forth the plan of salvation. Jesus already did his part by dying on the cross, and is now continually interceding for us to God. It’s our turn to call on God and turn our life into a living sacrifice in order for Him to respond in immeasurable ways. Jesus submitted to God´s will and God answered by raising him from the grave. In the same way I believe we as Christians are expected to follow the example Jesus set before us of obeying God´s calling for our life. Use the God-given talents and the passions he has placed on your heart to live for Him, serving Him wholeheartedly. And in God´s timing, His will and His ways will prevail.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Joshua 1-2 and Luke 24
Today, I would encourage you to read the material (Jude, 2 Peter) BEFORE the devotion, if you don’t already do that. Go do that. This can wait. You may be saying to yourself, did I just read the same thing twice? They are very similar.*
I’ve written this before, but in scripture, when something is repeated, IT IS IMPORTANT. In Ancient Cultures, reading wasn’t the norm. The people in the time of Jesus and before were oral cultures, and repeating oneself in written form was a way to emphasize important points. What’s happening in Jude and 2 Peter is God “repeating himself” for our benefit.
Jude and 2 Peter are both focused on false teachers bringing in destructive teachings among the people of God. Jude tells us that these people “creep” in “secretly”. They are teaching two general ideas : they are denying Jesus as Messiah and Master and they are turning grace into immorality and sensuality. These are twin ideas. These people were declaring that Jesus was not the only one who could save us from our sins (Messiah) and had no place in telling us what was right and wrong (Master). The false teachers seemed to have held the view that sin was not “real”; there was not one thing that was right and another that was wrong, but all were saved by the grace of God, and all would be permitted to spend eternity with him. All action was permitted.
We are still talking about the ancient world, though I know how similar it sounds to our own. Jude and Peter are warning us to not be seduced by these ideas. Instead, FIGHT for the faith. Don’t let those who would water down the gospel win. In love, speak truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You contend because those who are teaching these false things are bound for destruction. THEY should have known better, but YOU DO know better. Don’t let others go down this same path, but watch out for yourself. Peter says to live with all godliness and righteousness. Jude says to build yourself up in faith and keep yourselves in the love of God.
My brothers and sisters, may you see in Jude and 2 Peter faithful authors speaking to the same truth : there will always be someone trying to convince you that Jesus is not the Messiah, and their way to live is the best (either by adding commandments or removing standards). May you turn away from these false teachers. May you see two testimonies about the dangers of these heresies and sins, and may you make sure to be doubly cautious before following an unknown teacher.
-Jake Ballard —————————————————————————————————*If you would like to see a pretty decent analysis of why they are similar, you can read this article here : http://exegeticaltools.com/2020/05/15/the-literary-relationship-between-2-peter-and-jude/ The author of this devotion does not necessarily endorse everything said on the site (of course) or even the implicit conclusion of the article. (I think Jude wrote first, and Peter copied and riffed on his writing.) ** To the Tune of Last Christmas by WHAM! (Merry Christmas Eve)
Today’s Bible passages can be read on BibleGateway here – 2 Peter & Jude
Where is the darkest place you have been? So dark, you were scared to take a step? The most difficult place you’ve been? So difficult, you doubted? When have your dark, difficult, trying circumstances caused you to doubt what you previously knew to be true?
You are not alone. John has been there, too. Sometimes referred to as John the Baptist or the Baptizer for his message of repentance and baptism, John had faithfully worked for years. Known for his simple lifestyle, his ministry was not about him – but about the one who was to come – the Messiah. He had prepared the way for Jesus’ entrance. He had not taken the easy road. He had not backed down from authority. He continually stood for what was right and true – even when it landed him in prison. The ruling Herod didn’t appreciate John pointing out Herod’s many sins.
With his ministry and freedom taken from him, and his future in question, John had a lot of time to think in the darkness of his circumstances. Why? What if…? Was it worth it? Was this supposed to happen? Had he been right? Or wrong? We don’t know all the questions John asked in his prison cell. But, we do know the most important one. The one he needed an answer to. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)
And Jesus answered. Restating the truth that John needed to hear again. Pulling up Old Testament scripture from Isaiah and giving evidence of how his own ministry lined up with what had been foretold: the blind see, the lame walk, the leper is cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the GOOD NEWS is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5).
In our dark days and when we question what we knew to be true, we would do well to return to Jesus. Tell me again, Jesus. Give me proof of who you are. Read again who he is, what he has done, what he taught, what he did for me. The story of Jesus never gets old, but we do need to be reminded of what we know. And then we have the beautiful opportunity and mandate to tell others of what we have seen and heard.
In the rest of this chapter Jesus demonstrates that following him can be hard. People will criticize everything – our job is not to make people happy. There will be many unrepentant people (and cities) who do not accept the work that Jesus has done for them or the path that Jesus has laid out. Don’t be swayed, know that judgement will come and make sure you are on the right side. Stay close to the one who knows and reveals the Father. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only way. Work with him. Stay attached to Jesus. Take his yoke upon you (Matthew 11:29).
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 11
Tomorrow we will read Matthew 12:22-50 & Luke 11 as we are reminded again of the saving work of Jesus – and how he calls us to be yoked to him.
The Gospels describe only a few events associated with the childhood of Jesus. Considering the Greek word for “child” in Matthew 2:8, 11, and the fact that Herod sent to murder all the male children in Bethlehem that were 2 years old and younger, Jesus was months or even a year-old child when Gentile wise men came from the east to acknowledge the arrival of the King of the Jews.
What stands out in Matthew chapter 2 is the different reactions to the birth of the Messiah. The wise men asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” They came to honor the king. Most English translations have “worship” – but the word is often used in the Bible to designate proper respect and honor toward other human beings. These wise men represent Gentiles who acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews, and by extension, their own king.
Herod “the Great”, on the other hand, when he heard that these Gentile wise men thought the king of the Jews had been born – Herod was troubled. Ironically enough, Herod was called the “King of Jews” at the time. But he had been given that title by the Imperial Roman Government. He wasn’t born as a descendent of David and given the title by God. His anti-Christ murderous deed is emblematic of the high and mighty humans who refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is God’s chosen king.
The persecution and attempted murder of the King Messiah by Herod also is a parallel to the persecution of God’s chosen people Israel. Matthew quotes a passage from the prophet Jeremiah to illustrate the parallel. The nations opposed God’s work through God’s firstborn servant-son Israel. Even so they opposed God’s work through God’s ideal Israel, God’s servant-son Jesus.
And like Israel God’s son, Jesus God’s Son went to Egypt and was brought out of Egypt by God into the land of Israel. Note that the land was called “Israel” in Jesus’s day, not Palestine (Matt. 2:20, 21). Evoking the ancient name “Philistine”, Palestine was the name given to the land by the Romans 100 years later.
When Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned from Egypt, they originally intended to return to Judea (Bethlehem) since Jesus was technically a Judean of the line of David. But because of the murderous nature of the new ruler in Judea, they went to Galilee instead (cf. Matt. 2:22-23 and Luke 2:39. Luke doesn’t record Herod’s murders or Jesus’s travel to and from Egypt).
Luke describes one other event in the childhood of Jesus. When Jesus was 12 years old, he stayed behind in Jerusalem after the Passover festival. We can see that by this time Jesus knew he was the Messiah, who would relate to God as Father, according to the promise of God to David (2 Sam. 7:14, Psalm 2:7, 89:26).
The humanity of Jesus stands out in these events. There is no declaration, as traditional Christianity claims, of God who was born a human. Rather, “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
The phrase “from the beginning” which was used in the first verse of the book (1 John 1:1), is used 5 more times in chapter 2. In John 1:1 “that which was from the beginning” was that which they had heard, seen and touched, “the word of life”. This “beginning” refers to Jesus the Messiah and his ministry on earth communicating God’s word, not to the beginning at creation. The occurrences of “from the beginning” in chapter 2 are verses 7, 13, 14, and 24 (two times). It is important to keep in mind that “from/in the beginning” in the Scriptures does not always refer to the Genesis creation.
Context must help determine which “beginning” is meant. For instance, in the Gospel of John, the phrase “from the beginning” does not usually refer to the creation, but to Jesus ministry on earth. Note these references:
“For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him” (John 6:65)
“So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning’” (John 8:25).
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:24).
“And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (15:27).
In each case mentioned above, from the beginning means the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
With only two exceptions (John 8:44 and 1 John 3:8 which refer to the devil) “from the beginning” in the Gospel of John and in the Epistles of John (1 John 1:1; 2:7, 13, 14, 24; 3:11 and 2 John 1:5-6) refers to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. This may help us understand “In the beginning…” of John 1:1. Some One God believers see John 1:1 as a reference to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Similarly, Luke mentioned “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2). Mark 1:1 mentions “thebeginning of the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah.”
“My little children”
Several times the writer refers to those whom he writes as “my little children” or “children” (2:1, 12, 18, 28). This should not be understood as if the writer is derogatorily chastising his listeners for being immature. Rather, these references should be understood as a terms of endearment and care, just as when he calls his listeners “beloved” (1 John 2:7, 3:2, 21, 4:1, 7, 11). As children of God (3:1-2), those that believe that Jesus is the Christ are a family, brothers and sisters, who must love one another (5:1).
An Advocate with the Father
The writer explains that we do sin, but there is a path to forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10). He writes to us “so that we may not sin, but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus is our advocate, like a lawyer on our side. This should give us great encouragement. Jesus is the honest, righteous lawyer on our side. He is for us. As an expert lawyer, Jesus knows the rules. He knows how to take our case before the Father. He has access to the Father and successfully intercedes for us (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5 and Hebrews 8:1).
We lived in Israel and all our children were born there. Most countries do not grant citizenship to foreign children by virtue of being born in the country. Two of our young adult children applied to become citizens in Israel. They were denied several times over three years. However, not long ago a lawyer, an advocate, took up their case and presto, my children received their citizenship. The lawyer knew the rules, had the connections, authority and knowledge on how to present my children’s case, and succeeded. Jesus is our expert, righteous, successful advocate before the Father.
“Do not love the world…”
The author’s admonition to “not love the world or things of the world” are perhaps the best known verses of chapter 2 (vs. 15-17). He defines what “loving the world” is: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. It is a love of the way of the world, or of this world’s system. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have an appreciation for the beauty and grandeur of God’s creation, the work of God’s hands, which is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). After all we wait for the regeneration of this world, and indeed the regeneration of this world’s system (Matt. 19:28, Heb. 2:5).
“The last hour” and “anti-christs”
The author says it is thelasthour. What a long hour it has been! He knows that it is the last hour since many anti-christs had already come. Specifically, here he says that the anti-Christ (anti-Messiah) is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah). The text does not say, as many traditional trinitarian Christians say, that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that God is the Messiah, or that the Messiah pre-existed as God. Rather, the text says that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that Jesus, the man Jesus, is the Messiah. “Christ” (Messiah) is never a title for God himself.
Of these anti-christs, the author says: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us…” (1 John 2:19). It is easy to see how a text like this could be mis-interpreted and mis-applied. Especially as centuries passed, anyone could use the text to condemn any kind of a reformer. For instance, Catholics could apply it against Protestants. Today it is leveled against anyone who denies that Jesus is God. But in its original context it was directed against anyone who denied that the man Jesus is the Christ (Messiah).
The promise of God – eternal life
1 John 2:25 says that God has promised us eternal life (immortal life in the age to come). We can take comfort and joy that God is pretty good at keeping His promises.
Having confidence, and not shrinking back in shame
1 John 2:28 says that if we abide in Jesus, that is, live according to knowledge of who he is, we can have confidence so that when he appears, at his coming, we won’t shrink back in shame. Since we know who Jesus is — the Messiah of God the Father, risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand, appointed to rule the world, we can look forward to his return. There is a similar admonition in Hebrews 10:39: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.”
The apostle Peter in his second letter to the churches encourages us and the early believers to exercise a life of righteousness and to grow in those attributes on a continual basis. The attributes or fruit that he refers to in verses 5-7 are the same fruits that are mentioned as the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-25. God by His spirit produces fruit in true believers. By producing this fruit Christians stand out in humanity and shine when they display these attributes. Even non-believers stand up and take notice of those people who demonstrate an extra amount of patience, or loving kindness, or those who do not loose their joy even in the face of dire circumstances.
Recently my mother went through her second diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. I’ve seen the fruit of joy shine through her through this – even though she ended up losing a body part. She has been a shining light to those around her – keeping her joy by not losing her sense of humor. By being more concerned about others and their overall well-being rather than by wallowing in self-pity. She has been continuing to bear fruit even in her circumstances. Christians bear this kind of fruit and every good tree bears good fruit no matter what the circumstances. Every tree is known by its fruit. Peter is encouraging us and the early believers to continue to grow in bearing good fruit indicative of God’s spirit being multiplied within us.
In the last half of the chapter Peter fears that his time in instructing the believers will soon come to an end and he wants them to remember what is of most importance. The important thing that he wants them to remember is that Jesus truly is the son of God as was evidenced by him personally when the voice came from heaven declaring it so, and the importance of receiving Jesus as the promised Messiah.
In our walk with the Lord are we remembering what is most important and truly giving Christ first place in our hearts and minds as the son of God? Are we allowing ourselves to be changed so that we continue to grow and produce good fruit by his spirit within us? If we are not then we would do well to pay special attention to Peter’s words to the early church and apply them to our own hearts and lives as well.
Romans Chapter 11 –
Paul completes his three chapter address of the fact that the Jews missed the Messiah here in chapter 11. He emphasizes again that God did not completely reject Israel, for Paul himself is a Jew, and there is always going to be a remnant, until the entire nation will one day believe.
Verse 11 reads, “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” This speaks to a great truth. Very often, God is able to use transgressions or struggles in our own lives to bring about good.
My wife Susan and I have learned from mistakes in our marriage, and have shared those revelations with others. I know of people who have wrestled with drug addiction who have then participated in programs to help others who are still wrestling. In a very public example, Abby Johnson is a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston, who came to the revelation that what was going on there was wrong, and began a ministry to combat abortion. (There is a movie titled Unplanned opening in theaters this month about her experience.)
So, yes, things in our lives that we are not proud of can indeed be used for good and for God’s glory. But Paul continues in verse 12, “But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater will their fullness bring!” When we are fulfilling our purpose in Christ, that is when we are going to be used to our fullness!
This reminds me of the movie Monsters Inc. You know the story. The monsters snuck into kids rooms at night, in order to scare them and collect their screams. They then used the screams as a power source for the monster city. Yes, it worked, but at a cost, and with a huge amount of effort. But (spoiler alert) at the end of the movie, it was discovered that laughter was a far more powerful power source, that was much easier to collect. Maybe this analogy is a stretch, but the point is that God would rather us make good choices (the laughter) and work with that instead of having to work with our mistakes (the screams.)
Speaking of analogies, Paul makes the analogy of Gentiles being a branch grafted onto the tree of Israel. But he warns the Gentiles not to become arrogant or look down upon the Jews because they do not believe. Paul says, “do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”
There is a lot of anti-semitism in the world today. New York City police records indicate that Jews are the most targeted group in regards to hate crimes. There are many reasons for this hate, but let’s make sure we are not counted among the anti-semites of the world. God is going to save a remnant of Israel in the last days. I for one do not want to stand against God’s chosen people then or now.