Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bible teaching (John 1:6-9)

Evidences of Loving God

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18).

The first fruit of the Spirit is love, and it is love that is the focus of Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 13. What does Christian love mean? What are the signs of love?

First of all, love disposes us to honor God. It quickens a desire in our hearts for adoration. Do you enjoy the adoration of God in prayer, or is your prayer life merely endless petitions and requests? One of the signs of growing sanctification is an increasing accent on adoration in our prayers. We want more and more to honor God, to be enthralled with His majesty, and this is not natural to us in our sinful state. In short, love inclines us to worship.

Second, love gives credit to God’s Word. Love does not operate in a spirit of suspicion. When we love someone we are more prone to trust what they tell us. Also, today there is a mentality in some parts of the church that enjoys finding problems in Scripture, and this is not a manifestation of love.
Third, love in the heart acknowledges the right of God to govern, and not simply to govern the universe, but to govern me. Love melts the arrogance that is part of our fallen nature, and delights in the authority of God.

Fourth, love inclines us to desire justice for our neighbors. It moves us away from condemning and cheating and otherwise wronging our neighbor, toward giving him what is his due. It moves us away from slander and gossip, toward mercy and charitableness. Fifth, love disposes us toward contentment in whatever situation we find ourselves. This does not mean some kind of apathy, but it does mean that we are content with our lot even as we try to improve it. We are able to rejoice in the government of God, as He superintends our lives for our good.

If an evidence of loving God is adoration in prayer, spend five minutes today exalting God for who He is. Focus strictly on adoration, resisting the temptation to lapse into petitions, supplication or thanksgiving. Use the Psalms as models of adoration of God in prayer.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Indwelling Power

"And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Follow the way of love" (1 Corinthians 13:13; 14:1).

The Spirit of God gives both gifts and fruit to the people of God. Every Christian has a gift from the Spirit, and all Christians are to bear the fruit of the Spirit. It is important that we keep both of these things in mind. Today there is more emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, perhaps because these have been neglected by earlier generations, and perhaps also because the gifts of the Spirit have to do with talents and power and tend to be more glamorous.

We don’t want any kind of imbalance, but we have to say that if there is an accent in the Bible, it is on the fruit. This is because it is possible for the gifts of the Spirit to be given to unbelievers. Judas apparently could do the same works as the other apostles. In the Old Testament, the prophet Balaam, though an evil man, gave true prophecy (Numbers 22–24). Normally, of course, the gifts of the Spirit are given to believers, but as Paul says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Thus, we need to be concerned with the ethical fruit of the Spirit more than with His gifts.

Paul continues, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor [the gift of giving] and surrender my body to the flames [the gift of martyrdom], but have not love, I gain nothing.” This is a very strong statement.

Remember that Paul writes this as part of a larger discussion of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12–14). He says that the manifestation of the gifts, apart from the fruit, adds up to nothing. Thus, the most foundational part of the Christian life is the presence of love in the heart, the fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Read this list and examine yourself. Choose one fruit and focus your attention and prayer upon it through the rest of the week. Ask God to cultivate an abundant harvest of it in your life.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

False Assurance

"Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).

Yesterday we saw that some people think they are Christians and are certain that they will go to heaven, when in fact they are deluded. What kind of people are these? They are those who think that God will let them into heaven based on their own performance.

We can divide these people into two groups. Some have no idea of what God’s law demands. They simply think that they are Christians because they are nice, normal people as measured by modern society. Others do have some idea of what God requires, but they think that they measure up. For instance, I once met a man who knew the Bible fairly well (he thought), and he told me that he simply did not sin. In his own eyes, he was perfect.

In fact, however, this man was sadly deluded. Anyone who really understands what the Bible says about God’s requirements knows that he falls far, far, far short of them. Nobody who really understands God’s law can ever believe in salvation by his own good works. Remember the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16–22)? The man came to Jesus and asked how to be saved. Jesus replied that to be saved a man must keep God’s law.

The young man professed he had kept the law. Was there anything else he should do? Jesus then told him to sell all his possessions. Was this some new, extra requirement that Jesus was giving this man? Was this to become a normative standard for all who would seek salvation? No indeed. The man had professed to keep all the law, so Jesus tested him in terms of the very first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Far from keeping all the law, as he had proudly announced, the rich young man failed at this first point of testing.

Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the law allows us to trust His righteousness, not our own. Put yourself in the role of the rich young ruler. Which one of the Ten Commandments might Jesus use to test you? Your failure even in the slightest degree indicates your need for a Savior.

Strengthened by Grace (Ep. 2) - Bartimaeus

The latest episode of Strengthened by Grace is live. Christians should all strive to live contagious Christian lives, notable for their godliness. But how do you live such a life? In this episode of Strengthened by Grace, I discuss the life of Bartimaeus in Mark 10 - a poor, blind beggar rescued by Jesus Christ. How did Bartimaeus react to receiving God's grace? He became contagious!