Category Archives: Authentic

1 John 5 • Devotion #1: Working Properly

Have you ever have had an inanimate object not function to the specifics of its designed purpose? Let us all be honest; we all have. There is something about a stove that does not heat, a light that does not light, a dishwasher that does not wash, or a pen that does not write that brings frustration, anger, and at times, disposal of said object. Sadly, I am quick to throw things away instead of trying to fix them. I am truly in awe to anyone who can fix a thing broken. The hard thing about objects that are not working properly is that if you keep using the object that is broken, over time, the brokenness becomes worse.  

John has always been a fascinating person to study in the Bible. I had always felt when John was writing his Gospel, that he was a young man, full of energy, emotions, and poetic ways of describing how his Jesus lived. Fast forward to 1 John; I feel John has become an old, wise, and a bit more straight forward. John echoes a statement that Jesus Himself said. We read 1 John 5:3, “And his commandments are not burdensome.” Jesus says in Matthew chapter 11 that “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”(verse 30). The amazing truth that Jesus and John are communicating is that living for God should not be difficult, heavy, or burdensome. 

Now, if you almost threw your book, phone, or digital device across the room, hear me out. Living for Jesus was never meant to be a burdensome, heavy load. The reason why living for God, honoring Him in our actions, loving people like Jesus, serving others like Jesus, or simply not losing your temper on your family becomes so difficult is because our hearts are not functioning to the specifics of its designed purpose. God created man to be sinless with nothing between Him and us, but sin came into the world. At that moment, our hearts were no longer functioning properly, thus making the one thing we were made to do now burdensome and impossible. 

Trying to do anything apart from the love of Jesus is impossible. Trying to live a life without God is like ice skating uphill. Are you trying to live for Jesus, but it seems like it is always difficult? To get to a place where living for God is not burdensome, you have to look at your relationship with God. Jesus did not make living for Him burdensome because He did all the heavy lifting for us. He died on the cross, He rose again, and He gave us the gift of salvation. God did all the work and gave us new hearts. It is amazing to think that God does not throw us away because we are broken, but He fixes our hearts allowing us to work properly. 

Are you at a place where you have given your heart to Jesus? Do you believe that He died on a cross and rose again three days later, but it is seemingly burdensome to live for Jesus? It is time to re-examine your relationship with God. Living for God is not void of work. Before sin entered the world, God instructed Adam to work in Eden, but that work was not burdensome or hard. While we are still called to “show our works,” that work of living for Jesus is not meant to be heavy.  

If you still see living for God as a burden, relook at 1 John 5:1-2, “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. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” Believe that Jesus has done all the work on the cross, believe that God loves you, and believe in His grace. We function properly when we believe fully. 

1 John 4 • Devotion #6: Love Your Brother

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:19-21

God’s Holy Spirit uses the apostle John to point out something important to those who follow Jesus – we could not love God if He did not first love us. There are many words in the Bible that are used to describe God. He is “omniscient” (all-knowing), “omnipotent” (all-powerful), “omnipresent” (everywhere at the same time), faithful, just, and righteous. However, first and foremost, God is “Love.” 

Let me ask you a question, “Why do you love God?” We generally love people we are attracted to, they are fun to be with, they have interests similar to our own, or some other reason that benefits us. 

Yet, the Bible tells us, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Think about that for a minute. God is Holy, and yet He loved us when we loved sin. God loved us when we loved the things that He hated. That is truly amazing love. It is unselfish and unconditional. That is why God is Love!

Verse 19 begins, “We love.” Surely because God first loved us and did so unconditionally and lavishly, we should respond by loving Him. I am sure that most of you reading this will say, “I do love God!” If asked to give evidence of your love for God, many would say, “I lead a Growth Community,” or “I work with the youth ministry.” Others may say, “I attend a Bible study,” or “I have gone on prison trips.” These are all wonderful ways to show you love God, but that is not the point John is stressing here.

John says that if you really love God, you will love people. If you love God, you will love what He loves – people. As a point of emphasis, John says this is a commandment from God, “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

People are not always easy to love. This is even sometimes true of other Christians. However, if we truly love God and are filled with His Holy Spirit, we will have love (which is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit) flowing out of us to people. God will give us a love for others, despite their imperfections, because He is Love.

We need to show everyone how much we love God by loving those He loves, imperfect people.

1 John 4 • Devotion #5: Perfect Love

It has been some years now, but I can remember one summer day, standing in line at a major theme park with my nephew, as we waited to buy our tickets to ride the park’s latest tall coaster. This ride had been publicized for months as the tallest and fastest roller-coaster in the world, and we could not wait to ride it! The two of us were thrill-seekers and bantered back and forth for the entire ride in the car, and now here we were, just moments away from experiencing the thrill of our lives!

Because this was the coaster’s debut, the line was long, so long in fact that when we first entered the line, we could not even see the ride. As the line moved along, the coaster’s massive structure revealed more and more of itself the closer we came to the entry point. Words could not possibly express the excitement and anticipation that was running through me as I now could hear the screams of the current riders as they were coming to a sudden stop! All my senses were activated, and I knew this was my moment. The time had come, and I was ready to go!

On the flip side, this was not the case for my 13 year-old nephew. He was terrified! He was so terrified, in fact, that he tried to turn around in the line and go back to the entrance. However, it was too late; it was his turn to enter onto the ride. Yet, he was full of fear.

“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:17-18 

The apostle John writes about a time in the future called the “day of judgment.” It is a time when we will stand before the Lord. The question to us is, will we stand before Him in “confidence,” or like my nephew, will we tremble in “fear?”

John says that “perfect [or complete] love casts out fear.” What he is alluding to is the fact that Jesus’ love for us was complete, and that His substitutionary death on the cross for the penalty our sins was sufficient and final. There is no need for us to worry or live in fear of punishment on the day of judgment if we have placed our lives in Jesus’ hands. John tells us that “whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” In other words, if fear of judgment haunts us, then maybe we have never come to God in repentance and asked Him to forgive us of our sin.

With the work of Calvary finished, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, and “as He is so also are we in this world.” Knowing that His love was made perfect, we too can stand before Him on that day, not with the fear of punishment, but with perfect confidence that His love for us was perfected in His sacrifice.

1 John 4 • Devotion #4: The Gospel Revisited

I have heard the story of Jesus countless times. I have heard others lead people down the “Romans Road.” I have seen the Gospel of Christ change a person’s heart. I am a church kid. I sat in a seat for years. I was in AWANA and student leadership. I could tell you that hearing the Gospel story or evangelism, in general, is nothing new to me. Yet, when I read passages like 1 John 4:13-16, I ask, “Why again?” I would not venture to doubt that you do the same. I have come to the conclusion that salvation and the magnitude of what Jesus did for us is not something to think about once. The Gospel is what motivates us, it is what moves us to action, it is what should propel us forward, and we need to be reminded about it.

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John 4:13-16

This is what has happened to us. Because of God’s love, He sent His son Jesus to us to be the Savior of the world. His love reached down and rescued us from sin and from death. That love is something we can abide in if we only confess and testify that Jesus did come from His Father and died for our sins. 

As simple as we may look at the Gospel, it is the crux where everything falls. It is the most important part of our walk with the Lord. Knowing just simply that the Gospel is enough for us will aid us in moving forward. 

Personally, I find it refreshing. My wife and I are currently reading a book by J. D. Greear called Gospel. In this book, we have learned so much more about our faith, our life, and the Christian walk by just taking a look at the Good News of Jesus. I encourage you as a part of this church to do just that. Remember and revel in the Gospel. Know that what Jesus did for us is not just a story and is not just the first step, but it is the way we are to live now. 

1 John 4 • Devotion #3: Image Bearers

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:7-12

Love. It is a concept that is all over our culture today. As humans, we constantly get it wrong. As Christians, we constantly get it wrong. The Bible uses the word love over 400 times. So maybe it is something we should pay attention to and get it right. I hear your inner thoughts, “I love my people well,” and “I love my neighbor.” I hear you, but I have also seen your social media posts, your attitude at restaurants, and your ranting over politics (this is where I would insert the wide side-eye emoji if I could. LOL).

So can we pause for a minute and look at what the Bible says about love? John has a lot to say about it in 1 John chapter 4. Verse 11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” It seems pretty simple; God loves us, so we love other people. Why is it so difficult to actually do this? Is it because we do not really understand where love originates from? 

Verses 9-10 say, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” We should love not simply because we love God, but because He loved us so much He sent his Son. That is what verse 11 is saying. Our ability to love is born out of gratefulness for what God has done for us. I read a quote from a commentary that I thought was perfect, “Love is manifested in us because of what was done on the cross.” 

We are all image-bearers of a God who gave up His only Son to die for all of us, not just the conservatives, a specific race, or a specific gender. He died for all. Our love should reflect that. Preach the Gospel and love people because the cross demands it. 

We need to challenge ourselves. Next time we get irritated, angry, or prideful, we will remember the cross and the love it took for God to send His only Son. View people through that lens, an image-bearer whom God sent His Son to die for. I think it may radically change our perspective and our actions. We need to pray that our actions and words honor and reflect the love it took for the cross to happen. 

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